T.B. Phillips Stewart, B.A.,LL.B
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.7 ,J I
AUTHOR or ' EDUCATION OF UNCLE PAUL,'
'jiMBO,* 'human chord,' etc.
WITH A DESIGN BT W. GRAHAM ROBERTSON
MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED
ST. MARTIN'S STREET, LONDON
RARE TYPE OF BEING :
AN INTELLECTUAL MYSTIC.
* We may be in the Universe as dogs and cats are in our libraries,
seeing the books and hearing the conversation, but having no inkling
of the meaning of it all.' — William James, A Pluralistic Uninjerse.
* ... A man's vision is the great fact about him. Who cares for
Carlyle's reasons, or Schopenhauer's, or Spencer's ? A philosophy is
the expression of a man's intimate character, and all definitions of
the Universe are but the deliberately adopted reactions of human
characters upon it.' — Ibid,
There are certain persons who, independently of sex
or comeliness, arouse an instant curiosity concerning
themselves. The tribe is small, but its members
unmistakable. They may possess neither fortune,
good looks, nor that adroitness of advance-vision
which the stupid name good-luck ; yet there is about
them this inciting quality which proclaims that they
have overtaken Fate, set a harness about its neck of
violence, and hold bit and bridle in steady hands.
Most of us, arrested a moment by their presence
to snatch the definition their peculiarity exacts, are
aware that on the heels of curiosity follows — envy.
They know the very things that we for ever seek
in vain. And this diagnosis, achieved as it were
en passant, comes near to the truth, for the hall-mark
of such persons is that they have found, and come
into, their own. There is a sign upon the face and
in the eyes. Having somehow discovered the ' piece '
that makes them free of the whole amazing puzzle.
2 THE CENTAUR i
they know where they belong and, therefore, whither
they are bound : more, they are definitely en route.
The littlenesses of existence that plague the majority
pass them by.
' For this reason, if for no other,' continued
O'Malley, ' I count my experience with that man as
memorable beyond ordinary. " If for no other,"
because from the very beginning there was another.
Indeed, it was probably his air of unusual bigness,
massiveness rather, — head, face, eyes, shoulders,
especially back and shoulders, — that struck me first
when I caught sight of him lounging there hugely
upon my steamer deck at Marseilles, winning my
instant attention before he turned and the expression
on his great face woke more — woke curiosity, interest,
envy. He wore this very look of certainty that
knows, yet with a tinge of mild surprise as though
he had only recently known. It was less than
perplexity. A faint astonishment as of a happy
child — almost of an animal — shone in the large
brown eyes '
'You mean that the physical quality caught you
first, then the psychical .'' ' I asked, keeping him to
the point, for his Irish imagination was ever apt to
race away at a tangent.
He laughed good-naturedly, acknowledging the
check. ' I believe that to be the truth,' he rephed,
his face instantly grave again. * It was the impression
of uncommon bulk that heated my intuition — blessed
if I know how — leading me to the other. The size
of his body did not smother, as so often is the case
with big people : rather, it revealed. At the moment
I could conceive no possible connection, of course.
Only this overwhelming attraction of the man's
personality caught me and I longed to make friends.
I THE CENTAUR 3
That's the way with me, as you know,' he added,
tossing the hair back from his forehead impatiently,
' — pretty often. First impressions. Old man, I
tell you, it was like a possession.'
' I believe you,' I said. For Terence O'Malley
all his life had never understood half measures.
* The friendly and flowing savage, who is he ? Is he waiting for
civilization, or is he past it, and mastering it ? ' — Whitman.
* We find ourselves to-day in the midst of a somewhat peculiar state
of society, which we call Civilisation, but which even to the most
optimistic among us does not seem altogether desirable. Some of us,
indeed, are inclined to think that it is a kind of disease which the
various races of man have to pass through. . . .
'While History tells us of many nations that have been attacked by
it, of many that have succumbed to it, and of some that are still in
the throes of it, we know of no single case in which a nation has fairly
recovered from and passed through it to a more normal and healthy
condition. In other words, the development of human society has
never yet (that we know of) passed beyond a certain definite and
apparently final stage in the process we call Civilisation ; at that stage
it has always succumbed or been arrested.' — Edward Carpenter,
Civilisation : its Cause and Cure.
O'Malley himself is an individuality that invites
consideration from the ruck of commonplace men.
Of mingled Irish, Scotch, and English blood, the
first predominated, and the Celtic element in him
was strong. A man of vigorous health, careless of
gain, a wanderer, and by his own choice something
of an outcast, he led to the end the existence of a
rolling stone. He lived from hand to mouth, never
quite growing up. It seemed, indeed, that he never
could grow up in the accepted sense of the term, for
his motto was the reverse of nil admirari^ and he
found himself in a state of perpetual astonishment at
the mystery of things. He was for ever deciphering
II THE CENTAUR 5
the huge horoscope of Life, yet getting no further
than the House of Wonder, on whose cusp surely he
had been born. Civilization, he loved to say, had
blinded the eyes of men, filling them with dust
instead of vision.
An ardent lover of wild out-door life, he knew
at times a high, passionate searching for things
of the spirit, when the outer world fell away
like dross and he seemed to pass into a state
resembling ecstasy. Never in cities or among his
fellow-men, struggling and herded, did these times
come to him, but when he was abroad with the
winds and stars in desolate places. Then, some-
times, he would be rapt away, caught up to see
the tail-end of the great procession of the gods
that had come near. He surprised Eternity in a
For the moods of Nature flamed through him —
in him — like presences, potently evocative as the
presences of persons, and with meanings equally
various : the woods with love and tenderness ; the
sea with reverence and magic ; plains and wide
horizons with the melancholy peace and silence as
of wise and old companions ; and mountains with a
splendid terror due to some want of comprehension
in himself, caused probably by a spiritual remoteness
from their mood.
The Cosmos, in a word, for him was psychical,
and Nature's moods were transcendental cosmic
activities that induced in him these singular states of
exaltation and expansion. She pushed wide the gate-
ways of his deeper life. She entered, took possession,
dipped his smaller self into her own enormous and
He possessed a full experience, and at times a
6 THE CENTAUR ii
keen judgment, of modern life ; while underneath,
all the time lay the moving sea of curiously wild
primitive instincts. An insatiable longing for the
wilderness was in his blood, a craving, vehement,
unappeasable. Yet for something far greater than
the wilderness alone — the wilderness was merely a
symbol, a first step, indication of a way of escape.
The hurry and invention of modern life were to him
a fever and a torment. He loathed the million
tricks of civilization. At the same time, being a
man of some discrimination at least, he rarely let him-
self go completely. Of these wilder, simpler instincts
he was afraid. They might flood all else. If he
yielded entirely, something he dreaded without being
able to define, would happen ; the structure of his
being would suffer a nameless violence, so that he
would have to break with the world. These cravings
stood for that loot of the soul which he must deny
himself. Complete surrender would involve somehow
a disintegration, a dissociation of his personality that
carried with it the loss of personal identity.
When the feeling of revolt became sometimes so
urgent in him that it threatened to become un-
manageable, he would go out into solitude, calling it
to heel ; but this attempt to restore order, while
easing his nature, was never radical ; the accumulation
merely increased on the rebound ; the yearnings grew
and multiplied, and the point of saturation was often
dangerously near. 'Some day,' his friends would
say, ' there'll be a bursting of the dam.' And, though
their meaning might be variously interpreted, they
spoke the truth. O'Malley knew it, too.
A man he was, in a word, of deep and ever-
shifting moods, and with more difficulty than most
in recognizing the underlying self of which these
II THE CENTAUR 7
outer aspects were projections masquerading as
The underlying ego that unified these projections
was of the type touched with so sure a hand in the
opening pages of an inspired little book : The Plea of
Pan. O'Malley was useless as a citizen and knew it.
Sometimes — he was ashamed of it as well.
Occasionally, and at the time of this particular
' memorable adventure,' aged thirty, he acted as
foreign correspondent ; but even as such he was the
kind of newspaper man that not merely collects
news, but discovers, reveals, creates it. Wise in their
generation, the editors who commissioned him
remembered when his copy came in that they were
editors. A roving commission among the tribes of
the Caucasus was his assignment at the moment, and
a better man for the purpose would have been hard
to find, since he knew beauty, had a keen eye for
human nature, divined what was vital and picturesque,
and had, further, the power to set it down in brief
terms born directly of his vivid emotions.
When first I knew him he lived — nowhere, being
always on the move. He kept, however, a dingy
little room near Paddington where his books and
papers accumulated, undusted but safe, and where the
manuscripts of his adventures were found when his
death made me the executor of his few belongings.
The key was in his pocket, carefully ticketed with a
bone label. And this, the only evidence of practical
forethought I ever discovered in him, was proof that
something in that room was deemed by him of value
— to others. It certainly was not the heterogeneous
collection of second-hand books, nor the hundreds of
unlabelled photographs and sketches. Can it have
been the MSS. of stories, notes, and episodes I found,
8 THE CENTAUR ii
almost carefully piled and tabulated, with titles in a
dirty kitbag of green Willesden canvas ?
Some of these he had told me (with a greater
vividness than he could command by pen) ; others
were new ; many unfinished. All were unusual, to
say the least. All, too, had obviously happened to
himself at some period of his roving career, though
here and there he had disguised his own part in them
by Hoffmann's device of throwing the action into the
third person. Those told to me by word of mouth
I could only feel were true, true for himself at least.
In no sense were they mere inventions, but arose in
moments of vision upon a structure of solid events.
Ten men will describe in as many different ways a
snake crossing their path ; but, besides these, there
exists an eleventh man who sees more than the snake,
the path, the movement. O'Malley was some such
eleventh man. He saw the thing whole, from some
kind of inner bird's-eye view, while the ten saw only
limited aspects of it from various angles. He was
accused of adding details, therefore, because he had
divined their presence while still below the horizon.
Before they emerged the others had already left.
By which I mean that he saw in commonplace
events the movement of greater tides than others saw.
At one remove of time or distance — a minute or a
mile — he perceived all. While the ten chattered
volubly about the name of the snake, he was caught
beyond by the beauty of the path, the glory of the
running glide, the nature of the forces that drove,
The others reasoned where the snake was going,
its length in inches and its speed per second, while
he, ignoring such superficial details, plunged as it
were into the very nature of the creature's being.
II THE CENTAUR 9
And in this idiosyncrasy, which he shared with all
persons of mystical temperament, is exemplified a
certain curious contempt for Reason that he had.
For him mere intellectuality, by which the modern
world sets such store, was a valley of dry bones. Its
worship was a worship of the form. It missed the
essential inner truth because such inner truth could
be known only by being it, feeling it. The intellectual
attitude of mind, in a word, was critical, not creative,
and to be unimaginative seemed to him, therefore, the
worst form of unintelligence.
' The arid, sterile minds ! ' he would cry in a burst
of his Celtic enthusiasm. ' Where, I ask ye, did the
philosophies and sciences of the world assist the
progress of any single soul a blessed inch .'* '
Any little Dreamer in his top-floor back, spinning
by rushlight his web of beauty, was greater than the
finest critical intelligence that ever lived. The one,
for all his poor technique, was stammering over some-
thing God had whispered to him, the other merely
destroying thoughts invented by the brain of man.
And this attitude of mind, because of its inter-
pretative effect upon what follows, justifies mention.
For to O'Malley, in some way difficult to explain,
Reason and Intellect, as such, had come to be wor-
shipped by men to-day out of all proportion to their
real value. Consciousness, focussed too exclusively
upon them, had exalted them out of due proportion
in the spiritual economy. To make a god of them
was to make an empty and inadequate god. Reason
should be the guardian of the soul's advance, but not
the object. Its function was that of a great sandpaper
which should clear the way of excrescences, but its
worship was to allow a detail to assume a dispro-
lo THE CENTAUR ii
Not that he was fool enough to despise Reason in
what he called its proper place, but that he was ' wise'
enough — not that he was ' intellectual ' enough ! —
to recognize its futility in measuring the things of
the soul. For him there existed a more fundamental
understanding than Reason, and it was, apparently,
an inner and natural understanding.
' The greatest Teacher we ever had,' I once heard
him say, * ignored the intellect, and who, will ye tell
me, can by searching find out God ? And yet what
else is worth finding out ? . . . Isn't it only by
becoming as a little child — a child that feels and
never reasons things — that any one shall enter the
kingdom .? . . . Where will the giant intellects be
before the Great White Throne when a simple man
with the heart of a child will top the lot of 'em ? '
' Nature, I'm convinced,' he said another time,
though he said it with puzzled eyes and a mind
obviously groping, ' is our next step. Reason has
done its best for centuries, and gets no further. It
can get no further, for it can do nothing for the inner
life which is the sole reality. We must return to
Nature and a purified intuition, to a greater reliance
upon what is now subconscious, back to that sweet,
grave guidance of the Universe which we've discarded
with the primitive state — a spiritual intelligence, really,
divorced from mere intellectuality.'
And by Nature he did not mean a return to
savagery. There was no idea of going backwards in
his wild words. Rather he looked forwards, in some
way hard to understand, to a state when Man, with
the best results of Reason in his pocket, might return
to the instinctive life — to feeling wil/i — to the sinking
down of the modern, exaggerated intellectual per-
sonality into its rightful place as guide instead of
THE CENTAUR ii
leader. He called it a Return to Nature, but what
he meant, I always felt, was back to a sense of kinship
with the Universe which men, through worshipping
the intellect alone, had lost. Men to-day prided
themselves upon their superiority to Nature as beings
separate and apart. O'Malley sought, on the con-
trary, a development, if not a revival, of some fault-
less instinct, due to kinship with her, which — to
take extremes — shall direct alike the animal and the
inspired man, guiding the wild bee and the homing
pigeon, and — the soul towards its God.
This clue, as he called it, crystallized so neatly and
so conclusively his own mental struggles, that he had
called a halt, as it were, to his own intellectual
development. . . . The name and family of the snake,
hence, meant to him the least important things about
it. He caught, wildly yet consistently, at the psychic
links that bound the snake and Nature and himself
together with all creation. Troops of adventurous
thoughts had all his life ' gone west ' to colonize this
land of speculative dream. True to his idea, he
' thought ' with his emotions as much as with his
brain, and in the broken record of the adventure that
this book relates, this strange passion of his tempera-
ment remains the vital clue. For it happened z», as
well as to, himself. His Being could include the
Earth by feeling with her, whereas his intellect could
merely criticize, and so belittle, the details of such
Many a time, while he stretched credulity to a
point, I have heard him apologize in some such way
for his method. It was the splendour of his belief
that made the thing so convincing in the telling, for
later when I found the same tale written down it
seemed somehow to have failed of an equal achieve-
12 THE CENTAUR ii
ment. The truth was that no one language would
convey the extraordinary freight that was carried so
easily by his instinctive choice of gestures, tone, and
glance. With him these were consummately inter-
Before the age of thirty he had written and
published a volume or two of curious tales, all dealing
with extensions of the personality, a subject that inter-
ested him deeply, and one he understood because he
drew the material largely from himself. Psychology
he simply devoured, even in its most fantastic and
speculative forms ; and though perhaps his vision was
incalculably greater than his power of technique, these
strange books had a certain value and formed a genuine
contribution to the thought on that particular subject.
In England naturally they fell dead, but their trans-
lation into German brought him a wider and more
intelligent circle. The common public unfamiliar
with Sally Beauchamp No. 4, with H^l^ne Smith, or
with Dr. Hanna, found in these studies of divided
personality, and these singular extensions of the
human consciousness, only extravagance and imagina-
tion run to wildness. Yet, none the less, the
substratum of truth upon which O'Malley had built
them, lay actually within his own personal experience.
The books had brought him here and there acquaint-
ances of value ; and among these latter was a German
doctor, Heinrich Stahl. With Dr. Stahl the Irish-
man crossed swords through months of somewhat
irregular correspondence, until at length the two had
met on board a steamer where the German held
the position of ship's doctor. The acquaintanceship
had grown into something approaching friendship,
although the two men stood apparently at the
II THE CENTAUR 13
opposite poles of thought. From time to time they
In appearance there was nothing unusual about
O'Malley, unless it was the contrast of the light blue
eyes with the dark hair. Never, I think, did I see
him in anything but that old grey flannel suit, with
the low collar and shabby glistening tie. He was of
medium height, delicately built, his hands more like
a girl's than a man's. In towns he shaved and
looked fairly presentable, but once upon his travels
he grew beard and moustache and would forget for
weeks to have his hair cut, so that it fell in a tangle
over forehead and eyes.
His manner changed with the abruptness of his
moods. Sometimes active and alert, at others for
days together he would become absent, dreamy,
absorbed, half oblivious of the outer world, his
movements and actions dictated by subconscious
instinct rather than regulated by volition. And one
cause of that loneliness of spirit which was undoubtedly
a chief pain in life to him, was the fact that ordinary
folk were puzzled how to take him, or to know
which of these many extreme moods was the man
himself. Uncomfortable, unsatisfactory, elusive, not
to be counted upon, they deemed him : and from
their point of view they were undoubtedly right.
The sympathy and above all the companionship he
needed, genuinely craved too, were thus denied to
him by the faults of his own temperament. With
women his intercourse was of the slightest ; in a
sense he did not know the need of them much.
For one thing, the feminine element in his own
nature was too strong, and he was not conscious, as
most men are, of the great gap of incompleteness
women may so exquisitely fill ; and, for another, its
14 THE CENTAUR ii
obvious corollary perhaps, when they did come into
his life, they gave him more than he could comfort-
ably deal vi'ith. They offered him more than he
In this way, while he perhaps had never fallen in
love, as the saying has it, he had certainly known
that high splendour of devotion which means the
losing of oneself in others, that exalted love which
seeks not any reward of possession because it is
itself so utterly possessed. He was pure, too ; in
the sense that it never occurred to him to be other-
Chief cause of his loneliness — so far as I could
judge his complex personality at all — seemed that he
never found a sympathetic, truly understanding ear
for those deeply primitive longings that fairly
ravaged his heart. And this very isolation made
him often afraid ; it proved that the rest of the
world, the sane majority at any rate, said No to
them. I, who loved him and listened, yet never
quite apprehended his full meaning. Far more than
the common Call of the Wild, it was. He yearned,
not so much for a world savage, uncivilized, as for a
perfectly natural one that had never known, perhaps
never needed civilization — a state of freedom in a life
He never wholly understood, I think, the reason
why he found himself in such stern protest against
the modern state of things, why people produced in
him a state of death so that he turned from men to
Nature — to find life. The things the nations ex-
clusively troubled themselves about all seemed to him
so obviously vain and worthless, and, though he
never even in his highest moments felt the claims of
sainthood, it puzzled and perplexed him deeply that
II THE CENTAUR 15
the conquest over Nature in all its multifarious forms
to-day should seem to them so infinitely more
important than the conquest over self. What the
world with common consent called Reality, seemed
ever to him the most crude and obvious, the most
transient, the most blatant un-Reality. His love of
Nature was more than the mere joy of tumultuous
pagan instincts. It was, in the kind of simple life he
craved, the first step towards the recovery of noble,
dignified, enfranchised living. In the denial of all
this external flummery he hated, it would leave the
soul disengaged and free, able to turn her activities
within for spiritual development. Civilization now
suffocated, smothered, killed the soul. Being in the
hopeless minority, he felt he must be somewhere
wrong, at fault, deceived. For all men, from a
statesman to an engine-driver, agreed that the
accumulation of external possessions had value, and
that the importance of material gain was real. . . .
Yet, for himself, he always turned for comfort to the
Earth. The wise and wonderful Earth opened her
mind and her deep heart to him in a way few other
men seemed to know. Through Nature he could
move blind-folded along, yet find his way to strength
and sympathy. A noble, gracious life stirred in him
then which the pettier human world denied. He
often would compare the thin help or fellowship he
gained from ordinary social intercourse, or from what
had seemed at the time quite a successful gathering
of his kind, with the power he gained from a visit to
the woods or mountains. The former, as a rule,
evaporated in a single day ; the other stayed, with
ever growing power, to bless whole weeks and
And hence it was, whether owing to the truth or
1 6 THE CENTAUR ii
ignorance of his attitude, that a sense of bleak loneli-
ness spread through all his life, and more and more
he turned from men to Nature.
Moreover, foolish as it must sound, I was some-
times aware that deep down in him hid some name-
less, indefinable quality that proclaimed him fitted to
live in conditions that had never known the restraints
of modern conventions — a very different thing to
doing without them once known. A kind of child-
like, transcendental innocence he certainly possessed,
na'if^ most engaging, and — utterly impossible. It
showed itself indirectly, 1 think, in this distress under
modern conditions. The multifarious apparatus of
the spirit of To-day oppressed him ; its rush and
luxury and artificiality harassed him beyond belief.
The terror of cities ran in his very blood.
When I describe him as something of an outcast,
therefore, it will be seen that he was such both
voluntarily and involuntarily.
* What the world has gained by brains is simply
nothing to what it has lost by them '
* A dream, my dear fellow, a mere dream,' I
stopped him, yet with sympathy because I knew he
found relief this way. ' Your constructive imagina-
tion is too active.'
'By Gad,' he replied warmly, *but there is a
place somewhere, or a state of mind — the same
thing — where it's more than a dream. And, what's
more, bless your stodgy old heart, some day I'll get
' Not in England, at any rate,' I suggested.
He stared at me a moment, his eyes suddenly
charged with dreams. Then, characteristically, he
snorted. He flung his hand out with a gesture that
should push the present further from him.
ir THE CENTAUR
' I've always liked the Eastern theory — old theory
anyhow if not Eastern — that intense yearnings end
by creating a place where they are fulfilled '
' Subjectively '
* Of course ; objectively means incompletely. I
mean a Heaven built up by desire and intense long-
ing all your life. Your own thought makes it.
Living idea, that ! '
'Another dream, Terence O'Malley,' I laughed,
' but beautiful and seductive.'
To argue bored him. He loved to state his
matter, fill it with detail, blow the heated breath of
life into it, and then leave it. Argument belittled
without clarifying ; criticism destroyed, sealing up
the sources of life. Any fool could argue ; the small,
denying minds were always critics.
' A dream, but a damned foine one, let me tell
you,' he exclaimed, recovering his brogue in his
enthusiasm. He glared at me a second, then burst
out laughing. * 'Tis better to have dhreamed and
waked,' he added, ' than never to have dhreamed
And then he poured out O'Shaughnessy's
passionate ode to the Dreamers of the world :
We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams ;
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams ;
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.
With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world's great cities,
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire's glory ;
1 8 THE CENTAUR ii
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown ;
And three with a new song's measure
Can trample an empire down.
We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing.
And Babel itself with our mirth ;
And o'erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world's worth ;
For each age is a dream that is djing,
Or one that is coming to birth.
For this passion for some simple old-world
innocence and beauty lay in his soul like a lust — self-
feeding and voracious.
' Lonely ! Why should I feel lonely ? Is not our planet in the
Milky Way ? ' — Thoreau.
March had passed shouting away, and April was
whispering deliciously among her scented showers
when O'Malley went on board the coasting steamer
at Marseilles for the Levant and the Black Sea. The
mistral made the land unbearable, but herds of white
horses ran galloping over the bay beneath a sky of
childhood's blue. The ship started punctually — he
came on board as usual with a bare minute's margin
— and from his rapid survey of the thronged upper
deck, it seems, he singled out on the instant this
man and boy, wondering first vaguely at their
uncommon air of bulk, secondly at the absence of
detail which should confirm it. They appeared so
much bigger than they actually were. The laughter,
rising in his heart, however, did not get as far as his
For this appearance of massive bulk, and of
shoulders comely yet almost humped, was not
borne out by a direct inspection. It was a mental
impression. The man, though broad and well-pro-
portioned, with heavy back and neck and uncom-
monly sturdy torso, was in no sense monstrous. It
was upon the corner of the eye that the bulk and
hugeness dawned, a false report that melted under
20 THE CENTAUR iii
direct vision. O'Malley took him in with attention
merging in respect, searching in vain for the detail
of back and limbs and neck that suggested so
curiously the sense of the gigantic. The boy beside
him, obviously son, possessed the same elusive attri-
butes — felt yet never positively seen.
Passing down to his cabin, wondering vaguely to
what nationality they might belong, he was immedi-
ately behind them, elbowing French and German
tourists, when the father abruptly turned and faced
him. Their gaze met. O'Malley started.
* Whew . . . ! ' ran some silent expression like
fire through his brain.
Out of a massive visage, placid for all its rugged-
ness, shone eyes large and timid as those of an
animal or child bewildered among so many people.
There was an expression in them not so much cowed
or dismayed as 'un-refuged' — the eyes of the hunted
creature. That, at least, was the first thing they
betrayed ; for the same second the quick-blooded
Celt caught another look : the look of a hunted
creature that at last knows shelter and has found it.
The first expression had emerged, then withdrawn
again swiftly like an animal into its hole where safety
lay. Before disappearing, it had flashed a wireless
message of warning, of welcome, of explanation — he
knew not what term to use — to another of its own
kind, to himself.
O'Malley, utterly arrested, stood and stared. He
would have spoken, for the invitation seemed obvious
enough, but there came an odd catch in his breath,
and words failed altogether. The boy, peering at
him sideways, clung to his great parent's side. For
perhaps ten seconds there was this interchange of
staring, intimate staring, between the three of them
THE CENTAUR 21
. . . and then the Irishman, confused, more than a
little agitated, ended the silent introduction with an
imperceptible bow and passed on slowly, knocking
absent-mindedly through the crowd, down to his
cabin on the lower deck.
In his heart, deep down, stirred an indescribable
sympathy with something he divined in these two
that was akin to himself, but that as yet he could
not name. On the surface he felt an emotion he
knew not whether to call uneasiness or surprise, but
crowding past it, half smothering it, rose this other
more profound emotion. Something enormously
winning in the atmosphere of father and son called
to him in the silence : it was significant, oddly
buried ; not yet had it emerged enough to be con-
fessed and labelled. But each had recognized it in
the other. Each knew. Each waited. And it was
Before unpacking, he sat for a long time on his
berth, thinking . . . trying in vain to catch through
a thunder of surprising emotions the word that
might bring explanation. That strange impression
of giant bulk, unsupported by actual measurements ;
that look of startled security seeking shelter ; that
other look of being sure, of knowing where to go
and being actually en route, — all these, he felt, grew
from the same hidden cause whereof they were
symptoms. It was this hidden thing in the man
that had reached out invisibly and fired his own
consciousness as their gaze met in that brief instant.
And it had disturbed him so profoundly because the
very same lost thing lay buried in himself. The
man knew, whereas he anticipated merely — as yet.
What was it .? Why came there with it both happi-
ness and fear ?
22 THE CENTAUR m
The word that kept chasing itself in a circle like
a kitten after its own tail, yet bringing no explana-
tion, was Loneliness — a loneliness that must be
whispered. For it was loneliness on the verge of
finding relief And if proclaimed too loud, there
might come those who would interfere and prevent
relief. The man, and the boy too for that matter,
were escaping. They had found the way back,
were ready and eager, moreover, to show it to other
And this was as near as O'M alley could come to
explanation. He began to understand dimly — and
with an extraordinary excitement of happiness.
* Well — and the bigness ? ' I asked, seizing on a
practical point after listening to his dreaming, ' what
do you make of that ? It must have had some
definite cause surely ? '
He turned and fixed his light blue eyes on mine
as we paced beside the Serpentine that summer
afternoon when I first heard the story told. He
was half grave, half laughing.
' The size, the bulk, the bigness,' he replied,
' must have been in reality the expression of some
mental quality that reached me psychically, producing
its effect directly on my mind and not upon the eyes
at all.' In telling the story he used a simile omitted
in the writing of it, because his sense of humour
perceived that no possible turn of phrase could save
it from grotcsqueness when actually it was far from
grotesque — extraordinarily pathetic rather^ : * As
though,' he said, ' the great back and shoulders
carried beneath the loose black cape — humps, pro-
jections at least ; but projections not ugly in them-
selves, comely even in some perfectly natural way,
that lent to his person this idea of giant size. His
Ill THE CENTAUR 23
body, though large, was normal so far as its propor-
tions were concerned. In his spirit, though, there
hid another shape. An aspect of that other shape
somehow reached my mind.'
Then, seeing that I found nothing at the moment
to reply, he added :
' As an angry man you may picture to yourself as
red, or a jealous man as green ! ' He laughed aloud.
' D'ye see, now ? It was not really a physical
business at all ! '
' We think with only a small part of the past, but it is with our
entire past, including the original bent of our soul, that we desire, will,
and act.' — Henri Bergson.
The balance of his fellow-passengers were not dis-
tinguished. There was a company of French tourists
going to Naples, and another lot of Germans bound
for Athens, some business folk for Smyrna and
Constantinople, and a sprinkling of Russians going
home via Odessa, Batoum, or Npvorossisk.
In his own state-room, occupying the upper
berth, was a little round-bodied, red-faced Canadian
drummer, 'travelling' in harvest-machines. The name
of the machine, its price, and the terms of purchase
were his universe ; he knew them in several languages ;
beyond them, nothing. He was good-natured, con-
ceding anything to save trouble. ' D'ye mind the
light for a bit while I read in bed } ' asked O'Malley.
' Don't mind anything much,' was the cheery reply.
* I'm not particular ; I'm easy-going and you needn't
bother.' He turned over to sleep. ' Old traveller,'
he added, his voice muffled by sheets and blankets,
' and take things as they come.' And the only
objection O'Malley found in hin was that he took
things as they came to the point of not taking baths
at all, and not even taking all his garments off when
he went to bed.
IV THE CENTAUR 25
The Captain, whom he knew from previous
voyages, a genial, rough-voiced sailor from Sassnitz,
chided him for so nearly missing the boat — ' as usual.'
' You're too late for a seat at my taple,' he said
with his laughing growl ; 'it's a pidy. You should
have led me know py telegram, and I then kepd your
place. Now you find room at the doctor's table
howefer berhaps . . . ! '
' Steamer's very crowded this time,' O'Malley
replied, shrugging his shoulders ; ' but you'll let me
come up sometimes for a smoke with you on the
bridge ^ '
' Of course, of course.'
' Anybody interesting on board .'' * he asked after a
The jolly Captain laughed. ' 'Pout the zame as
usual, you know. Nothing to stop ze ship ! Ask
the doctor ; he knows zooner than me. But, any-
way, the nice ones, they get zeazick always and
dizappear. Going Trebizond this time ? ' he added.
' No ; Batoum.'
* Ach ! Oil ? '
' Caucasus generally — up in the mountains a bit.'
' God blenty veapons then, I hope. They shoot
you for two pfennig up there ! ' And he was oflF
with his hearty deep laugh and rather ponderous
briskness towards the bridge.
Thus O'Malley found himself placed for meals at
the right hand of Dr. Stahl ; opposite him, on the
doctor's left, a talkative Moscow fur-merchant who,
having come to definite conclusions of his own about
things in general, was persuaded the rest of the
world must share them, and who delivered verbose
commonplaces with a kind of pontifical utterance
sometimes amusing, but usually boring ; on his right
26 THE CENTAUR iv
a gentle-eyed, brown-bearded Armenian priest from
the Venice monastery that had sheltered Byron, a
man who ate everything except soup with his knife,
yet with a daintiness that made one marvel, and with
hands so graceful they might almost have replaced
the knife without offence. Beyond the priest sat
the rotund Canadian drummer. He kept silence,
watched the dishes carefully lest anything should
escape him, and — ate. Lower down on the opposite
s*ide, one or two nondescripts between, sat the big,
blond, bearded stranger with his son. Diagonally
across from himself and the doctor, they were in full
O'Malley talked to all and sundry whom his
voice could reach, being easily forthcoming to people
whom he was not likely to see again. But he was
particularly pleased to find himself next to the ship's
doctor. Dr. Heinrich Stahl, for the man both attracted
and antagonized him, and they had crossed swords
pleasantly on more voyages than one. There was
a fundamental contradiction in his character due —
O'Malley divined — to the fact that his experiences
did not tally as he wished them to do with his
beliefs, or vice versa. Affecting to believe in nothing,
he occasionally dropped remarks that betrayed a
belief in all kinds of things, unorthodox things.
Then, having led the Irishman into confessions of his
own fairy faith, he would abruptly rule the whole
subject out of order with some cynical phrase that
closed discussion. In this sarcastic attitude O'Malley
detected a pose assumed for his own protection.
* No man of sense can possibly accept such a thing ;
it is incredible and foolish.' Yet, the biting way he
said the words betrayed him ; the very thing his
reason rejected, his soul believed. . . .
IV THE CENTAUR 27
These vivid impressions the Irishman had of
people, one wonders how accurate they were ! In
this case, perhaps, he was not far from the truth.
That a man with Dr. Stahl's knowledge and ability
could be content to hide his light under the bushel of
a mere schiffsartzt required explanation. His own
explanation was that he wanted leisure for thinking
and writing. Bald-headed, slovenly, prematurely
old, his beard stained with tobacco and snufF, under-
sized, scientific in the imaginative sense that made
him speculative beyond mere formulae, his was an
individuality that inspired a respect one could never
quite account for. He had keen dark eyes that
twinkled, sometimes mockingly, sometimes, if the
word may be allowed, bitterly, yet often too with
a good-humoured amusement which sympathy with
human weaknesses could alone have caused. A
warm heart he certainly had, as more than one forlorn
passenger could testify.
Conversation at their table was slow at first. It
began at the lower end where the French tourists
chattered briskly over the soup, then crept upwards
like a slow fire o'erleaping various individuals who
would not catch. For instance, it passed the
harvest-machine man ; it passed the nondescripts ;
it also passed the big light-haired stranger and his
At the table behind, there was a steady roar and
buzz of voices ; the Captain was easy and genial,
prophesying to the ladies on either side of him a
calm voyage. In the shelter of his big voice even
the shy found it easy to make remarks to their
neighbours. Listening to fragments of the talk
O'Mallcy found that his own eyes kept wandering
down the table — diagonally across — to the two
2 8 THE CENTAUR iv
strangers. Once or twice he intercepted the doctor's
glance travelling in the same direction, and on these
occasions it was on the tip of his tongue to make
a remark about them, or to ask a question. Yet the
words did not come. Dr. Stahl, he felt, knew a
similar hesitation. Each, wanting to speak, yet kept
silence, waiting for the other to break the ice.
' This mistral is tiresome,' observed the doctor, as
the tide of talk flowed up to his end and made a
remark necessary. ' It tries the nerves of some.'
He glanced at O'Malley, but it was the fur-merchant
who replied, spreading a be-ringed hand over his
plate to feel the warmth.
' I know it well,' he said pompously in a tone
of finality ; ' it lasts three, six, or nine days. But
once across the Golfe de Lyons we shall be free of it.'
* You think so } Ah, I am glad,' ventured the
priest with a timid smile while he adroitly balanced
meat and bullet-like green peas upon his knife-blade.
Tone, smile, and gesture were so gentle that the use
of steel in any form seemed incongruous.
The voice of the fur - merchant came in
' Of course. I have made this trip so often, /
know. St. Petersburg to Paris, a few weeks on the
Riviera, then back by Constantinople and the Crimea.
It is nothing. I remember last year ' He pushed
a large pearl pin more deeply into his speckled tie
and began a story that proved chiefly how luxuriously
he travelled. His eyes tried to draw the whole end
of the table into his circle, but while the Armenian
listened politely, with smiles and bows, Dr. Stahl
turned to the Irishman again. It was the year of
Halley's comet and he began talking interestingly
IV THE CENTAUR 29
* . . . Three o'clock in the morning — any morn-
ing, yes — is the best time,' the doctor concluded,
' and I'll have you called. You must see it through
my telescope. End of this week, say, after we leave
Catania and turn eastwards . . .'
And at this instant, following a roar of laughter
from the Captain's table, came one of those abrupt
pauses that sometimes catch an entire room at once.
All voices hushed. Even the merchant, setting down
his champagne glass, fell silent. One heard only the
beating of the steamer's screw, the rush of water
below the port-holes, the soft scuffle of the stewards*
feet. The conclusion of the doctor's inconsiderable
sentence was sharply audible all over the room —
* . . . crossing the Ionian Sea towards the Isles of
It rang across the pause, and at the same moment
O'Malley caught the eyes of the big stranger lifted
suddenly and fixed upon the speaker's face as though
the words had summoned him.
They shifted the same instant to his own, then
dropped again to his plate. Again the clatter ot
conversation drowned the room as before ; the
merchant resumed his self-description in terms of
gold ; the doctor discussed the gases of the comet's
tail. But the swift-blooded Irishman felt himself
caught away strangely and suddenly into another
world. Out of the abyss of the subconscious there
rose a gesture prophetic and immense. The trivial
phrase and that intercepted look opened a great door
of wonder in his heart. In a second he grew 'absent-
minded.' Or, rather, something touched a button
and the whole machinery of his personality shifted
round noiselessly and instantaneously, presenting an
immediate new facet to the world. His normal,
30 THE CENTAUR iv
puny self-consciousness slipped a moment into the
majestic calm of some far larger state that the
stranger also knew. The Universe lies in every
human heart, and he plunged into that archetypal world
that stands so close behind all sensible appearances.
He could neither explain nor attempt to explain, but
he sailed away into some giant swimming mood of
beauty wherein steamer, passengers, talk, faded
utterly, the stranger and his son remaining alone real
and vital. He had seen ; he could never forget.
Chance prepared the setting, but immense powers had
rushed in and availed themselves of it. Something
deeply buried had flamed from the stranger's eyes
and beckoned to him. The fire ran from the big
man to himself and was gone.
»' The Isles of Greece ' The words were
simple enough, yet it seemed to O'Malley that the
look they summoned to the stranger's eyes ensouled
them, transfiguring them with the significance of
vital clues. They touched the fringe of a mystery,
magnificent and remote — some transcendent psychical
drama in the life of this man whose ' bigness ' and
whose ' loneliness that must be whispered ' were also
in their way other vital clues. Moreover, remember-
ing his first sight of these two upon the upper deck a
few hours before, he understood that his own spirit,
by virtue of its peculiar and primitive yearnings, was
involved in the same mystery and included in the
same hidden passion.
The little incident illustrates admirably O'Malley 's
idiosyncrasy of ' seeing whole.' In a lightning flash
his inner sense had associated the words and the
glance, divining that the one had caused the other.
That pause provided the opportunity. ... If
Imagination, then it was creative imagination ; if
IV THE CENTAUR 31
true, it was assuredly spiritual insight of a rare
He became aware that the twinkling eyes of his
neighbour were observing him keenly. For some
moments evidently he had been absent-mindedly
staring down the table. He turned quickly and
looked at the doctor with frankness. This time it
was impossible to avoid speech of some kind.
' Following those lights that do mislead the
morn ? ' asked Dr. Stahl slyly. ' Your thoughts
have been travelling. You've heard none of my
last remarks ! '
Under the clamour of the merchant's voice
O'Malley replied in a lowered tone :
* I was watching those two half-way down the
table opposite. They interest you as well, I see.'
It was not a challenge exactly ; if the tone was
aggressive, it was merely that he felt the subject
was one on which they would differ, and he scented
an approaching discussion. The doctor's reply,
indicating agreement, surprised him a good deal.
' They do ; they interest me greatly.' There
was no trace of fight in the voice. ' That should
cause you no surprise.'
* Me — they simply fascinate,' said O'Malley,
always easily drawn. ' What is it ? What do you
see about them that is unusual ? You, too, see
them " big " ? The doctor did not answer at once,
and O'Malley added, * The father's a tremendous
fellow, but it's not that '
' Partly, though,' said the other, ' partly, I think.'
' What else, then .? ' The fur - merchant, still
talking, prevented their being overheard. ' What
is it marks them off so from the rest ? '
* Of all people you should see,* smiled the doctor
32 THE CENTAUR iv
quietly. * If a man of your imagination sees nothing,
what shall a poor exact mind like myself see ? ' He
eyed him keenly a moment. * You really mean
that you detect nothing ? '
* A certain distinction, yes ; a certain aloofness
from others. Isolated, they seem in a way ; rather
a splendid isolation I should call it '
And then he stopped abruptly. It was most
curious, but he was aware that unwittingly in this
way he had stumbled upon the truth, aware at the
same time that he resented discussing it with his
companion — because it meant at the same time dis-
cussing himself or something in himself he wished to
hide. His entire mood shifted again with complete-
ness and rapidity. He could not help it. It
seemed suddenly as though he had been telling the
doctor secrets about himself, secrets moreover he
would not treat sympathetically. The doctor had
been ' at him,' so to speak, searching the depths of
him with a probing acuteness the casual language
* What are they, do you suppose, Finns, Russians,
Norwegians, or what } ' the doctor asked. And the
other replied briefly that he guessed they might be
Russians perhaps, South Russians. His tone was
different. He wished to avoid further discussion.
At the first opportunity he neatly changed the
It was curious, the way proof came to him.
Something in himself, wild as the desert, something
to do with that love of primitive life he discussed
only with the few who were intimately sympathetic
towards it, this something in his soul was so akin
to a similar passion in these strangers that to talk
of it was to betray himself as well as them.
IV THE CENTAUR 33
Further, he resented Dr. Stahl's interest in them,
because he felt it was critical and scientific. Not far
behind hid the analysis that would lay them bare,
leading to their destruction. A profound instinctive
sense of self-preservation had been stirred within him.
Already, mysteriously guided by secret affinities,
he had ranged himself on the side of the strangers.
' Mythology contains the history of the archetypal world. It
comprehends Past, Present, and Future.' — Novalis, Flo'vcer Pollen.
Translated by U. C. B.
In this way there came between these two the slight
barrier of a forbidden subject that grew because
neither destroyed it. O'Malley had erected it ;
Dr. Stahl respected it. Neither referred again for a
time to the big Russian and his son.
In his written account O'Malley, who was
certainly no constructive literary craftsman, left out
apparently countless little confirmatory details. By
word of mouth he made me feel at once that this
mystery existed, however ; and to weld the two
together is a difficult task. There nevertheless was
this something about the Russian and his boy that
excited deep curiosity, accompanied by an aversion
on the part of the other passengers that isolated
them ; also, there was this competition on the part
of the two friends to solve it, from opposing
Had either of the strangers fallen seasick, the
advantage would have been easily with Dr. Stahl —
professionally ; but since they remained well, and
the doctor was in constant demand by the other
passengers, it was the Irishman who won the first
move and came to close quarters by making a
V THE CENTAUR 35
personal acquaintance. His strong desire helped
matters of course ; for he noticed with indignation
that these two, quiet and inoffensive as they were
and with no salient cause of offence, were yet
rejected by the main body of passengers. They
seemed to possess a quality that somehow insulated
them from approach, sending them effectually ' to
Coventry,' and in a small steamer where the
travellers settle down into a kind of big family life,
this isolation was unpleasantly noticeable.
It stood out in numerous little details that only a
keen observer closely watching could have taken
into account. Small advances, travellers' courtesies,
and the like that ordinarily should have led to
conversation, in their case led to nothing. The
other passengers invariably moved away after a few
moments, politely excusing themselves, as it were,
from further intercourse. And although at first the
sight of this stirred in him an instinct of revolt that
was almost anger, he soon felt that the couple not
merely failed to invite, but even emanated some
definite atmosphere that repelled. And each time he
witnessed these little scenes, there grew more strongly
in him the original picture he had formed of them
as beings rejected and alone, hunted by humanity as
a whole, seeking escape from loneliness into a place
of refuge that they knew of, definitely at last en
Only an imaginative mind, thus concentrated
upon them, could have divined all this ; yet to
O'Malley it seemed plain as the day. With the
certitude, moreover, came the feeling, ever stronger,
that the refuge they sought would prove to be also
the refuge he himself sought, the difference being
that whereas they knew, he still hesitated.
36 THE CENTAUR v
Yet, in spite of this secret sympathy, imagined
or discovered, he found it no easy matter to
approach the big man for speech. For a day and a
half he merely watched ; attraction so strong excited
caution ; he paused, waiting. His attention, how-
ever, was so keen that he seemed always to know
where they were and what they were doing. By
instinct he was aware in what part of the ship they
would be found — for the most part leaning over the
rail alone in the bows, staring down at the churned
water together by the screws, pacing the after-deck
in the dusk or early morning when no one was
about, or hidden away in some corner of the upper
deck, side by side, gazing at sea and sky. Their
method of walking, too, made it easy to single them
out from the rest — a free, swaying movement of the
limbs, a swing of the shoulders, a gait that was
lumbering, almost clumsy, half defiant, yet at the
same time graceful, and curiously rapid. The body
moved along swiftly for all its air of blundering — a
motion which was a counterpart of that elusive
appearance of great bulk, and equally difficult of
exact determination. An air went with them of
being ridiculously confined by the narrow little decks.
Thus it was that Genoa had been made and the
ship was already half way on to Naples before the
opportunity for closer acquaintance presented itself.
Rather, O'Malley, unable longer to resist, forced it.
It seemed, too, inevitable as sunrise.
Rain had followed the mistral and the sea was
rough. A rich land-taste came about the ship like
the smell of wet oaks when wind sweeps their leaves
after a sousing shower. In the hour before dinner,
the decks slippery with moisture, only one or two
wrapped -up passengers in deck-chairs below the
V THE CENTAUR 37
awning, O'Malley, following a sure inner lead, came
out of the stuffy smoking-room into the air. It was
already dark and the drive of mist-like rain some-
what obscured his vision after the glare. Only for a
moment though — for almost the first thing he saw
was the Russian and his boy moving in front of him
towards the aft compasses. Like a single figure,
huge and shadowy, they passed into the darkness
beyond with a speed that seemed as usual out of
proportion to their actual stride. They lumbered
rapidly away. O'Malley caught that final swing of
the man's great shoulders as they disappeared, and,
leaving the covered deck, he made straight after
them. And though neither gave any sign that they
had seen him, he felt that they were aware of his
coming — and even invited him.
As he drew close a roll of the vessel brought
them almost into each other's arms, and the boy,
half hidden beneath his parent's flowing cloak, looked
up at once and smiled. The saloon light fell dimly
upon his face. The Irishman saw that friendly smile
of welcome, and lurched forward with the roll of the
deck. They brought up against the bulwarks, and
the big "man put out an arm to steady him. They
all three laughed together. At close quarters, as
usual again, the impression of bulk had disappeared.
And then, at first, utterly unlike real life, they
said — nothing. The boy moved round and stood
close to his side so that he found himself placed
between them, all three leaning forward over the
rails watching the phosphorescence of the foam-
Dusk lay over the sea ; the shores of Italy not
near enough to be visible ; the mist, the hour, the
loneliness of the deserted decks, and something else
38 THE CENTAUR v
that was nameless, shut them in, these three, in a
little world of their own. A sentence or two rose
in O'Malley's mind, but without finding utterance,
for he felt that no spoken words were necessary.
He was accepted without more ado. A deep
natural sympathy existed between them, recognized
intuitively from that moment of first mutual inspec-
tion at Marseilles. It was instinctive, almost as with
animals. The action of the boy in coming round to
his side, unhindered by the father, was the symbol of
utter confidence and welcome.
There came, then, one of those splendid and
significant moments that occasionally, for some,
burst into life, flooding all barriers, breaking down
as with a flaming light the thousand erections of
shadow that close one in. Something imprisoned in
himself swept outwards, rising like a wave, bringing
an expansion of life that ' explained.' It vanished,
of course, instantly again, but not before he had
caught a flying remnant that lit the broken puzzles
of his heart and left things clearer. Before thought,
and therefore words, could overtake, it was gone ;
but there remained at least this glimpse. The fire
had flashed a light down subterranean passages of his
being and made visible for a passing second some
clue to his buried primitive yearnings. He partly
Standing there between these two this thing came
over him with a degree of intelligibility scarcely
captured by his words. The man's qualities — his
quietness, peace, slowness, silence — betrayed some-
how that his inner life dwelt in a region vast and
simple, shaping even his exterior presentment with its
own huge characteristics, a region wherein the distress
of the modern world's vulgar, futile strife could not
V THE CENTAUR 39
exist — more, could never have existed. The Irish-
man, who had never realized exactly why the life of
To-day to him was dreadful, now understood it in
the presence of this simple being with his atmosphere
of stately power. He was like a child, but a child
of some pre-existence utterly primitive and utterly
forgotten ; of no particular age, but of some state
that ante-dates all ages ; simple in some noble, con-
centrated sense that was prodigious, almost terrific.
To stand thus beside him was to stand beside a
mighty silent fire, steadily glowing, a fire that fed all
lesser flames, because itself close to the central source
of fire. He felt warmed, lighted, vivified — made
whole. The presence of this stranger took him at
a single gulp, as it were, straight into Nature — a
Nature that was alive. The man was part of her.
Never before had he stood so close and intimate.
Cities and civilization fled away like transient
dreams, ashamed. The sun and moon and stars
moved up and touched him.
This word of lightning explanation, at least, came
to him as he breathed the other's atmosphere and
presence. The region where this man's spirit fed was
at the centre, whereas to-day men were active with
a scattered, superficial cleverness, at the periphery.
He even understood that his giant gait and move-
ments were small outer evidences of this inner fact,
wholly in keeping. That blundering stupidity, half
glorious, half pathetic, with which he moved among
his fellows was a physical expression of this psychic
fact that his spirit had never learned the skilful
tricks taught by civilization to lesser men. It was,
in a way, awe-inspiring, for he was now at last
driving back full speed for his own region and —
40 THE CENTAUR v
O'Malley knew himself caught, swept off his feet,
momentarily driving with him. . . .
The singular deep satisfaction of it, standing
there with these two in the first moment, he describes
as an entirely new sensation in his life — an aware-
ness that he was ' complete.' The boy touched his
side and he let an arm steal round to shelter him.
The huge, bearded parent rose in his massiveness
against his other shoulder, hemming him in. For a
second he knew a swift and curious alarm, passing
however almost at once into the thrill of a rare
happiness. In that moment, it was not the passengers
or the temper of To-day who rejected them ; it was
they who rejected the world : because they knew
another and superior one — more, they were in it.
Then, without turning, the big man spoke, the
words in heavy accented English coming out labor-
iously and with slow, exceeding difficulty as though
utterance was a supreme effort.
' You . . . come . . . with . . . us?' It was
like stammering almost. Still more was it like
essential inarticulateness struggling into an utterance
foreign to it — unsuited. The voice was a deep and
windy bass, merging with the noise of the sea below.
* I'm going to the Caucasus,' O'Malley replied ;
' up into the old, old mountains, to — see things — to
look about — to search ' He really wanted to
say much more, but the words lay dead or beyond
The big man nodded slowly. The boy listened.
' And yourself — ? ' asked the Irishman, hardly
knowing why he faltered and trembled.
The other smiled ; a beauty that was beyond all
language passed with that smile across the great face
in the dusk.
V THE CENTAUR 41
*Some of us ... of ours . . .' he spoke very
slowly, very brokenly, quarrying out the words with
real labour, '. . . still survive . . . out there . . .
We . . . now go back. So very . . . few . . .
remain. . . . And you — come with us . . .'
'In the spiritual Nature-Kingdom, man must everywhere seek his
peculiar territory and climate, his best occupation, his particular
neighbourhood, in order to cultivate a Paradise in idea ; this is the
right system. . . . Paradise is scattered over the whole earth, and that
is why it has become so unrecognizable.' — Novalis. Translated by
U. C. B.
' Man began in instinct and will end in instinct. Instinct is genius
in Paradise, before the period of self-abstraction (self-knowledge).* —
• Look here, old man,' he said to me, ' I'll just
tell you what it was, because I know you won't laugh.'
We were lying under the big trees behind the
Round Pond when he reached this point, and his
direct speech was so much more graphic than the
written account that I use it. He was in one of his
rare moments of confidence, excited, hat off, his
shabby tie escaping from the shabbier grey waistcoat.
One sock lay untidily over his boot, showing bare leg.
Children's voices floated to us from the water-
side as though from very far away ; the nursemaids
and perambulators seemed tinged with unreality, the
London towers were clouds, its roar the roar of
waves. I saw only the ship's deck, the grey and
misty sea, the uncouth figures of the two who leaned
with him over the bulwarks.
' Go on,' I said encouragingly ; ' out with it ! '
' It must seem incredible to most men, but, by
Gad, I swear to you, it lifted me ofi^ my feet, and
VI THE CENTAUR 43
I've never known anything like it. The mind of
that great fellow got hold of me, included me. He
made the inanimate world — sea, stars, wind, woods,
and mountains — seem all alive. The entire blessed
universe was conscious — and he came straight out of
it to get me. I understood things about myself I've
never understood before — and always funked rather ;
— especially that feeling of being out of touch with
my kind, of finding no one in the world to-day who
speaks my language quite — that, and the utter, God-
forsaken loneliness it makes me suffer '
' You always have been a lonely beggar really,' I
said, noting the hesitation that thus on the very
threshold checked his enthusiasm, quenching the fire
in those light-blue eyes. ' Tell me. I shall under-
stand right enough — or try to.'
' God bless you,' he answered, leaping to the
sympathy, * I believe you will. There's always been
this primitive, savage thing in me that keeps others
away — puts them off, and so on. I've tried to
smother it a bit sometimes *
' Have you .'' ' I laughed.
' " Tried to," I said, because I've always been
afraid of its getting out too much and bustin' my life
ail to pieces : — something lonely and untamed and
sort of outcast from cities and money and all the
thick suffocating civilization of to-day ; and I've only
saved myself by getting off into wildernesses and free
places where I could give it a breathin' chance with-
out running the risk of being locked up as a crazy
man.' He laughed as he said it, but his heart was
in the words. ' You know all that ; haven't I told
you often enough ^ It's not a morbid egoism, or
what their precious academic books so stupidly call
*' degenerate," fipr in me it's damned vital and terrific.
44 THE CENTAUR vi
and moves always to action. It's made me an alien
and — and '
'Something far stronger than the Call of the
Wild, isn't it?'
He fairly snorted. ' Sure as we're both alive here
sittin' on this sooty London grass,' he cried. ' This
Call of the Wild they prate about is just the call a
fellow hears to go on " the bust " when he's had too
much town and's got bored — a call to a little bit of
licence and excess to safety-valve him down. What
I feel,' his voice turned grave and quiet again, ' is
quite a different affair. It's the call of real hunger
— the call of food. They want to let off" steam, but
I want to take in stuffs to prevent — starvation.* He
whispered the word, putting his lips close to my face.
A pause fell between us, which I was the first to
' This is not your century ! That's what you
really mean,' I suggested patiently.
' Not my centhury ! ' he caught me up, flinging
handfuls of faded grass in the air between us and
watching it fall ; ' why, it's not even my world ! And
I loathe, loathe the spirit of to-day with its cheap-
jack inventions, and smother of sham universal
culture, its murderous superfluities and sordid
vulgarity, without enough real sense of beauty left
to see that a daisy is nearer heaven than an airship '
' Especially when the airship falls,' I laughed.
' Steady, steady, old boy ; don't spoil your righteous
case by overstatement.'
' Well, well, you know what I mean,' he laughed
with me, though his face at once turned earnest again,
' and all that, and all that, and all that. . . . And so
this savagery that has burned in me all these years
unexplained, these Russian strangers made clear. I
THE CENTAUR 45
can't tell you how because I don't know myself.
The father did it — his proximity, his silence stuffed
with sympathy, his great vital personality undipped
by contact with these little folk who left him alone.
His presence alone made me long for the earth and
Nature. He seemed a living part of it all. He was
magnificent and enormous, but the devil take me if
I know how.'
' He said nothing — that referred to it directly ? '
* Nothing but what I've told you, — blundering
awkwardly with those few modern words. But he
had it in him a thousand to my one. He made me
feel I was right and natural, untrue to myself to
suppress it and a coward to fear it. The speech-
centre in the brain, you know, is anyhow a com-
paratively recent thing in evolution. They say
• It wasn't his century either,' I checked him again.
' No, and he didn't pretend it was, as I've tried
to,' he cried, sitting bolt upright beside me. ' The
fellow was genuine, never dreamed of compromise.
D'ye see what I mean ? Only somehow he'd found
out where his world and century were, and was off to
take possession. And that's what caught me. I
felt it by some instinct in me stronger than all else ;
only we couldn't talk about it definitely because
— because — I hardly know how to put it — for the
same reason,' he added suddenly, ' that I can't talk
about it to you now ! There are no words. . . .
What we both sought was a state that passed away
before words came into use, and is therefore beyond
intelligible description. No one spoke to them on
the ship for the same reason, I felt sure, that no one
spoke to them in the whole world — because no one
could manage even the alphabet of his language.
46 THE CENTAUR vi
* And this was so strange and beautiful,' he went
on, * that standing there beside him, in his splendid
atmosphere, the currents of wind and sea reached me
through him firsts filtered by his spirit so that I
assimilated them and they fed me, because he some-
how stood in such close and direct relation to Nature.
I slipped into my own region, made happy and alive,
knowing at last what I wanted, though still unable
to phrase it. This modern world I've so long tried
to adjust myself to became a thing of pale remembrance
and a dream. . . .'
' All in your mind and imagination, of course,
this,' I ventured, seeing that his poetry was luring
him beyond where I could follow.
' Of course,' he answered without impatience,
grown suddenly thoughtful, less excited again, ' and
that's why it was true. No chance of clumsy senses
deceiving one. It was direct vision. What is
Reality, in the last resort,' he asked, ' but the thing
a man's vision brings to him — to believe 1 There's
no other criterion. The criticism of opposite types of
mind is merely a confession of their own limitations.'
Being myself of the ' opposite type of mind,' I
naturally did not argue, but suffered myself to
accept his half-truth for the whole — temporarily. I
checked him from time to time merely lest he should
go too fast for me to follow what seemed a very
wonderful tale of faery.
' So this wild thing in me the world to-day has
beggared and denied,' he went on, swept by his
Celtic enthusiasm, ' woke in its full strength. Calling
to me like some flying spirit in a storm, it claimed
me. The man's being summoned me back to the
earth and Nature, as it were, automatically. I under-
stood -that look on his face, that sign in his eyes.
VI THE CENTAUR 47
The " Isles of Greece " furnished some faint clue, but
as yet I knew no more — only that he and 1 were in
the same region and that I meant to go with him
and that he accepted me with delight that was joy.
It drew me as empty space draws a giddy man to
the precipice's edge. Thoughts from another's jnind,*
he added by way of explanation, turning round,
' come far more completely to me when I stand in a
man's atmosphere, silent and receptive, than when
by speech he tries to place them there. Ah ! And
that helps me to get at what I mean, perhaps. The
man, you see, hardly thought ; he/^//.'
* As an animal, you mean ? Instinctively — ? '
* In a sense, yes,' he replied after a momentary
hesitation. ' Like some very early, very primitive
form of life.'
'With the best will in the world, Terence, I
don't quite follow you '
' I don't quite follow meself,' he cried, ' because
I'm trying to lead and follow at the same time.
You know that idea — I came across it somewhere —
that in ancient peoples the senses were much less
specialized than they are now ; that perception came
to them in general, massive sensations rather than
divided up neatly into five channels : — that they felt
a/l over so to speak, and that all the senses, as in an
overdose of haschish, become one single sense ^ The
centralizing of perception in the brain is a recent
thing, and it might equally well have occurred in any
other nervous head-quarters of the body, say, the
solar plexus ; or, perhaps, never have been localized
at all ! In hysteria patients have been known to
read with the finger-tips and smell with the heel.
Touch is still all over ; it's only the other four that
have got fixed in definite organs. There are systems
48 THE CENTAUR vi
of thought to-day that still would make the solar
plexus the main centre, and not the brain. The
word " brain," you know, never once occurs in the
ancient Scriptures of the world. You will not find
it in the Bible — the reins, the heart, and so forth
were what men felt with then. They felt all over
— well,' he concluded abruptly, ' I think this fellow
was like that. D'ye see now .'' '
I stared at him, greatly wondering. A nursemaid
passed close, balancing a child in a spring-per-
ambulator, saying in a foolish voice, ' Wupsey up,
wupsey down ! Wupsey there ! ' O'Malley, in the
full stream of his mood, waited impatiently till she
had gone by. Then, rolling over on his side, he
came closer, talking in a lowered tone. I think I
never saw him so deeply stirred, nor understood,
perhaps, so little of the extreme passion working in
him. Yet it was incredible that he could have
caught so much from mere interviews with a semi-
articulate stranger, unless what he said was strictly
true, and this Russian had positively touched latent
fires in his soul by a kind of sympathetic magic.
* You know,' he went on almost under his breath,
' every man who thinks for himself and feels vividly
finds he lives in a world of his own, apart, and
believes that one day he'll come across, either in a
book or in a person, the Priest who shall make it
clear to him. Well — I'd found mine, that's all. I
can't prove it to you with a pair of scales or a
butcher's meat-axe, but it's true.'
• And you mean his mere presence conveyed all
this without speech almost ? '
' Because there was no speech possible,' he replied,
dropping his voice to a whisper and thrusting his
face yet closer into mine. ' We were solitary
VI THE CENTAUR 49
survivors of a world whose language was either
uncreated or ' — he italicized the word — '-forgotten. . . .'
'An elaborate and detailed thought-transference,
then ? '
• Why not ? ' he murmured. ' It's one of the
commonest facts of daily life.'
' And you had never fully realized it before, this
loneliness and its possible explanation — that there
might exist, I mean, a way of satisfying it — till you
met this stranger } '
He answered with deep earnestness. 'Always,
old man, always, but suffered under it atrociously
because I'd never understood it. I had been afraid
to face it. This man, a far bigger and less diluted
example of it than myself, made it all clear and right
and natural. We belonged to the same forgotten
place and time. Under his lead and guidance I
could find my own — return. . . . '
I whistled a long soft whistle, looking up into
the sky. Then, sitting upright like himself, we
stared hard at one another, straight in the eye. He
was too grave, too serious to trifle with. It would
have been unfair too. Besides, I loved to hear him.
The way he reared such fabulous superstructures
upon slight incidents, interpreting thus his complex
being to himself, was uncommonly interesting. It
was observing the creative imagination actually at
work, and the process in a sense seemed sacred.
Only the truth and actuality with which he clothed
it all made me a little uncomfortable sometimes.
' I'll put it to you quite simply,' he cried suddenly.
* Yes, and " quite simply " it was ?
' That he knew the awful spiritual loneliness of
living in a world whose tastes and interests were not
his own, a world to which he was essentially foreign,
so THE CENTAUR
and at whose hands he suffered continual rebuff and
rejection. Advances from either side were mutually
and necessarily repelled because oil and water cannot
mix. Rejected, moreover, not merely by a family,
tribe, or nation, but by a race and time — by the
whole World of To-day ; an outcast and an alien, a
' An appalling picture ! '
' I understood it,' he went on, holding up both
hands by way of emphasis, ' because in miniature I
had suffered the same : he was a supreme case of
what lay so deeply in myself. He was a survival of
other life the modern mind has long since agreed to
exile and deny. Humanity stared at him over a
barrier, never dreaming of asking him in. Even had
it done so he could not by the law of his being have
accepted. Outcast meself in some small way, I
understood his terrible loneliness, a soul without a
country, visible and external country that is. A
passion of tenderness and sympathy for him, and so
also for myself, awoke. I saw him as chieftain of
all the lonely, exiled souls of life.'
Breathless a moment, he lay on his back staring
at the summer clouds — those thoughts of wind that
change and pass before their meanings can be quite
seized. Similarly protean was the thought his phrases
tried to clothe. The terror, pathos, sadness of this
big idea he strove to express touched me deeply, yet
never quite with the clarity of his own conviction.
' There are such souls, dipaysies and in exile,' he
said suddenly again, turning over on the grass.
' They do exist. They walk the earth to-day here
and there in the bodies of ordinary men . . . and
their loneliness is a loneliness that must be whispered.'
* You formed any idea what kind of — of survival ? '
VI THE CENTAUR 51
I asked gently, for the notion grew in me that after
all these two would prove to be mere revolutionaries
in escape, political refugees, or something quite
O'Malley buried his face in his hands for a
moment without replying. Presently he looked up.
I remember that a streak of London black ran from
the corner of his mouth across the cheek. He
pushed the hair back from his forehead, answering in
a manner grown abruptly calm and dispassionate.
* Don't ye see what a foolish question that is,'
he said quietly, ' and how impossible to satisfy,
inviting that leap of invention which can be only an
imaginative lie .^ ... I can only tell you,' and the
breeze brought to us the voices of children from the
Round Pond where they sailed their ships of equally
wonderful adventure, * that my own longing became
this : to go with him, to know what he knew, to
live where he lived — for ever.'
' And the alarm you said you felt ^ '
' That,' he added, ' was a kind of mistake. To
go involved, I felt, an inner catastrophe that might
be Death — that it would be out of the body, I mean,
or a going backwards. In reality, it was a going
forwards and a way to Life.*
And it was just before the steamer made Naples that
the jolly Captain unwittingly helped matters forward
a good deal. For it was his ambition to include in
the safe-conduct of his vessel the happy-conduct also
of his passengers. He liked to see them contented
and of one accord, a big family, and he noted — or
had word brought to him perhaps — that there were
one or two whom the attitude of the majority left
out in the cold.
It may have been — O'Malley wondered without
actually asking — that the man who shared the cabin
with the strangers made some appeal for re-arrange-
ment, but in any case Captain Burgenfelder approached
the Irishman that afternoon on the bridge and asked
if he would object to having them in his state-room
for the balance of the voyage.
* Your present gompanion geds off at Naples,' he
said. ' Berhaps you would not object. I think —
they seem lonely. You are friendly with them.
They go alzo to Batoum .'' '
This proposal for close quarters gave him pause.
He knew a moment or two of grave hesitation, yet
without time to analyze it. Then, driven by a
sudden decision of the heart that knew no revision
of reason, he agreed.
VII THE CENTAUR 53
* I had better, perhaps, suggest it to see if they
are willing,' he said the next minute, hedging.
' I already ask him dat.'
* Oh, you have ! And he would like it — not
object, I mean ? ' he added, aware of a subtle sense
of half-frightened pleasure.
' Pleased and flattered on the gontrary,' was the
reply, as he handed him the glasses to look at Ischia
rising blue from the sea.
O'M alley felt as though his decision was somehow
an act of self-committal, almost grave. It meant
that impulsively he accepted a friendship which
concealed in its immense attraction — danger. He
had taken the plunge.
The rush of it broke over him like a wave,
setting free a tumult of very deep emotion. He
raised the glasses automatically to his eyes, but look-
ing through them he saw not Ischia nor the opening the
Captain explained the ship would make, heading that
evening for Sicily. He saw quite another picture that
drew itselt up out of himself — was thrown up, rather,
somewhat with violence, as upon a landscape of
dream-scenery. The lens of passionate yearning in
himself, ever unsatisfied, focussed it against a back-
ground far, far away, in some faint distance that was
neither of space nor time, and might equally have
been past as future. Large figures he saw, shadowy
yet splendid, that ran free-moving as clouds over
mighty hills, vital with the abundant strong life of a
younger world. . . . Yet never quite saw them,
never quite overtook them, for their speed and the
manner of their motion bewildered the sight. . . .
Moreover, though they evaded him in terms of
physical definition he knew a sense of curious, half-
remembered familiarity. Some portion of his hidden
54 THE CENTAUR vii
self, uncaught, unharnessed by anything in modern
life, rose with a passionate rush of joy and made after
them — something in him untamed as wind. His
mind stood up, as it were, and shouted ' I am
coming.' For he saw himself not far behind, as a
man, racing with great leaps to join them . . . yet
never overtaking, never drawing close enough to
see quite clearly. The roar of their tramping shook
the very blood in his ears. . . .
His decision to accept the strangers had set free
in his being something that thus for the first time in
his life — escaped. . . . Symbolically in his mind
this Escape had taken picture form. . . .
The Captain's voice was asking for the glasses ;
with a wrench that caused almost actual physical
pain he tore himself away, letting this herd of Flying
Thoughts sink back into the shadows and disappear.
With sharp regret he saw them go — a regret for long,
long, far-off things. . . .
Turning, he placed the field-glasses carefully in
that fat open hand stretched out to receive them,
and noted as he did so the thick, pink fingers that
closed about the strap, the heavy ring of gold, the
band of gilt about the sleeve. That wrought gold,
those fleshy fingers, the genial gutteral voice saying
' T'anks ' were symbols of an existence tamed and
artificial that caged him in again. . . .
Then he went below and found that the lazy
* drummer ' who talked harvest-machines to puzzled
peasants had landed, and in his place an assortment
of indiscriminate clothing belonging to the big
Russian and his son lay scattered over the upper
berth and upon the sofa-bed beneath the port-hole.
' For my own part I find in some of these abnormal or supernormal
facts ' the strongest suggestions in favour of a superior consciousness
being possible. I doubt whether we shall ever understand some of
them without using the very letter of Fechner's conception of a great
reservoir in which the memories of earth's inhabitants are pooled and
preserved, and from which, when the threshold lowers or the valve
opens, information ordinarily shut out leaks into the mind of
exceptional individuals among us.' — William James, A Pluralistic
And it was some hours later, while the ship made
for the open sea, that he told Dr. Stahl casually of
the new arrangement and saw the change come so
suddenly across his face. Stahl stood back ~fi=om-the
compass-box whereon they leaned, and putting a hand
upon his companion's shoulder, looked a moment into
his eyes. With surprise O'Malley noted that the
pose of cynical disbelief was gone ; in its place was
sympathy, interest, kindness. The words he spoke
came from his heart.
' Is that true .'' ' he asked, as though the news
'Of course. Why not.? Is there anything
wrong.?' He felt uneasy. The doctor's manner
confirmed the sense that he had done a rash thing.
Instantly the barrier between the two crumbled and
he lost the first feeling of resentment that his friends
^ Divided or split personality, automatic speech and writing, mediumship
and possession generally.
S6 THE CENTAUR viii
should be analyzed. The men thus came together
in unhindered sincerity.
' Only,' said the doctor thoughtfully, half
gravely, ' that — I may have done you a wrong, placed
you, that is, in a position of — ' he hesitated an instant,
— ' of difficulty. It was I who suggested the change.'
O'Malley stared at him.
' I don't understand you quite.'
' It is this,' continued the other, still holding him
with his eyes. He said it deliberately. ' I have
known you for some time, formed — er — an opinion
of your type of mind and being — a very rare and
curious one, interesting me deeply '
' I wasn't aware you'd had me under the micro-
scope,' O'Malley laughed, but restlessly.
' Though you felt it and resented it — justly, I
may say — to the point of sometimes avoiding me '
* As doctor, scientist,' put in O'Malley, while the
other, ignoring the interruption, continued in
* I always had the secret hope, as " doctor and
scientist," let us put it then, that I might one day
see you in circumstances that should bring out certain
latent characteristics I thought I divined in you. I
wished to observe you — your psychical being — under
the stress of certain temptations, favourable to these
characteristics. Our brief voyages together, though
they have so kindly ripened our acquaintance into
friendship ' — he put his hand again on the other's
shoulder smiling, while O'Malley replied with a little
nod of agreement — ' have, of course, never provided
the opportunity 1 refer to *
' Ah ! '
' Until now ! ' the doctor added. * Until now.'
Puzzled and interested the Irishman waited for
VIII THE CENTAUR 57
him to go on, but the man of science, who was now
a ship's doctor, hesitated. He found it difficult,
apparently, to say what was in his thoughts.
' You refer, of course, though I hardly follow you
quite — to our big friends.? ' O'Malley helped him.
The adjective slipped out before he was aware of
it. His companion's expression admitted the accuracy
of the remark. * You also see them — big, then .? ' he
said, quickly taking him up. He was not cross-
questioning ; out of keen sympathetic interest he
'Sometimes, yes,' the Irishman answered, more
astonished. ' Sometimes only '
* Exactly. Bigger than they really are ; as though
at times they gave out — emanated — something that
extended their appearance. Is that it ? '
O'Malley, his confidence wholly won, more
surprised, too, than he quite understood, seized Stahl
by the arm and drew him towards the rails. They
leaned over, watching the sea. A passenger, pacing
the decks before dinner, passed close behind them.
* But, doctor,' he said in a hushed tone as soon as
the steps had died away, ' you are saying things that
I thought were half in my imagination only, not true
in the ordinary sense quite — your sense, I mean ^ '
For some moments the doctor made no reply. In
his eyes a curious steady gaze replaced the usual
twinkle. When at length he spoke it was evidently
following a train of thought of his own, playing
round a subject he seemed half ashamed of and yet
desired to state with direct language.
' A being akin to yourself,' he said in low tones,
' only developed, enormously developed ; a Master
in your own peculiar region, and a man whose
influence acting upon you at close quarters could not
58 THE CENTAUR viii
fail to arouse the latent mind-storms' — he chose the
word hesitatingly, as though seeking for a better he
could not find on the moment, — ' always brewing in
you just below the horizon,'
He turned and watched his companion's face
keenly. O'Malley was too impressed to feel annoy-
* Well — ? ' he asked, feeling the adventure closing
round him with quite a new sense of reality. * Well ? '
he repeated louder. ' Please go on. I'm not offended,
only uncommonly interested. You leave me in a fog,
so far. I think you owe me more than hints.'
' I do,' said the other simply. ' About that man
is a singular quality too rare for language to have
yet coined its precise description : something that is
essentially ' — they had lapsed into German now, and
he used the German word — ' unheimlich.^
The Irishman started. He recognized this for
truth. At the same time the old resentment stirred
a little in him, creeping into his reply.
' You have studied him closely then — had him, too,
under the microscope ^ In this short time } '
This time the answer did not surprise him, however.
' My friend,' he heard, while the other turned
from him and gazed out over the misty sea, ' I have
not been a ship's doctor — always. I am one now
only because the leisure and quiet give me the
opportunity to finish certain work, recording work.
For years I was in the H ' — he mentioned the
German equivalent for the Salp^tri^re — ' years of
research and investigation into the astonishing vagaries
of the human mind and spirit — with certain results,
followed later privately, that it is now my work to
record. And among many cases that might well
seem — er — beyond either credence or explanation,' —
VIII THE CENTAUR 59
he hesitated again slightly — ' I came across one, one
in a million, let us admit, that an entire section of
my work deals with under the generic term of
' Primitive men,' O'Malley snapped him up,
translating. Through his growing bewilderment
ran also a growing uneasiness shot strangely with
delight. Intuitively he divined what was coming.
' Beings,' the doctor corrected him, ' not men.
The prefix Ur-^ moreover, I use in a deeper sense
than is usually attached to it as in Urwaldy
Urwelt^ and the like. An Urmensch in the world
to-day must suggest a survival of an almost incredible
kind — a kind, too, utterly inadmissible and inexpli-
cable to the materialist perhaps '
* Paganistic } ' interrupted the other sharply, joy
and fright rising over him.
' Older, older by far,' was the rejoinder, given
with a curious hush and a lowering of the voice.
The suggestion rushed into full possession of
O'Malley 's mind. There rose in him something
that claimed for his companions the sea, the wind,
the stars — tumultuous and terrific. But he said
nothing. The conception, blown into him thus for
the first time at full strength, took all his life into
its keeping. No energy was left over for mere
words. The doctor, he was aware, was looking at
him, the passion of discovery and belief in his eyes.
His manner kindled. It was the hidden Stahl
* ... a type, let me put it,* he went on in a
voice whose very steadiness thrilled his listener
afresh, *that in its strongest development would
experience in the world to-day the loneliness of a
complete and absolute exile. A return to humanity,
6o THE CENTAUR viii
you see, of some unexpended power of mythological
values. . . .'
* Doctor . . . ! '
The shudder passed through him and away
almost as soon as it came. Again the sea grew
splendid, the thunder of the waves held voices call-
ing, and the foam framed shapes and faces, wildly
seductive, though fugitive as dreams. The words
he had heard moved him profoundly. He re-
membered how the presence of the stranger had
turned the world alive.
He knew what was coming, too, and gave the
lead direct, while yet half afraid to ask the question.
' So my friend — this big " Russian " ^ '
' I have known before, yes, and carefully studied.'
* Is it not just possible that there is a mode of being as much tran-
scending Intelligence and Will as these transcend mechanical motion ? '
— Herbert Spencer, First Principles.
The two men left the rail and walked arm in arm
along the deserted deck, speaking in lowered
' He came first to us, brought by the keeper of
an obscure hotel where he was staying, as a case
of lapse of memory — loss of memory, I should say,
for it was complete. He was unable to say who he
was, whence he came, or to whom he belonged. Of
his land or people we could learn nothing. His
antecedents were an utter blank. Speech he had
practically none of his own — nothing but the merest
smattering of many tongues, a word here, a word
there. Utterance, indeed, of any kind was exceed-
ingly difficult to him. For years, evidently, he had
wandered over the world, companionless among men,
seeking his own, finding no place where to lay his
head. People, it seemed, both men and women,
kept him at arm's-length, feeling afraid ; the keeper
of the little hotel was clearly terrified. This quality
he had that I mentioned just now, repelled human
beings — even in the Hospital it was noticeable — and
placed him in the midst of humanity thus absolutely
62 THE CENTAUR ix
alone. It is a quality more rare than ' — hesitating,
searching for a word — ' purity, one almost extinct
to-day, one that I have never before or since come
across in any other being — hardly ever, that is to
say,' he qualified the sentence, glancing significantly
at his companion.
* And the boy .? ' O'Malley asked quickly, anxious
to avoid any discussion of himself.
' There was no boy then. He has found him
since. He may find others too — possibly ! ' The
Irishman drew his arm out, edging away impercept-
ibly. That shiver of joy reached him from the air
and sea, perhaps.
* And two years ago,' continued Dr. Stahl, as if
nothing had happened, * he was discharged, harmless '
— he lingered a moment on the word, * if not cured.
He was to report to us every six months. He has
never done so,'
' You think he remembers you ^ '
* No. It is quite clear that he has lapsed back
completely again into the — er — state whence he
came to us, that unknown world where he passed
his youth with others of his kind, but of which he
has been able to reveal no single detail to us, nor we
to trace the slightest clue.'
They stopped beneath the covered portion of the
deck, for the mist had now turned to rain. They
leaned against the smoking-room outer wall. In
O'Malley's mind the thoughts and feelings plunged
and reared. Only with difficulty did he control
*And this man, you think,' he asked with out-
ward calmness, ' is of — of my kind ? '
' " Akin," I said. I suggest ' But O'Malley
cut him short.
IX THE CENTAUR 63
' So that you engineered our sharing a cabin with
a view to putting him again — putting us both — under
the microscope ? '
* My scientific interest was very strong,' Dr. Stahl
replied carefully. * But it is not too late to change.
I offer you a bed in my own roomy cabin on the
promenade deck. Also, I ask your forgiveness.'
The Irishman, large though his imaginative creed
was, felt oddly checked, baffled, stupefied by what he
had heard. He knew perfectly well what Stahl was
driving at, and that revelations of another kind were
yet to follow. What bereft him of very definite
speech was this new fact slowly awakening in his
consciousness which hypnotized him, as it were, with
its grandeur. It seemed to portend that his own
primitive yearnings, so-called, grew out of far deeper
foundations than he had yet dreamed of even. Stahl,
should he choose to listen, meant to give him ex-
planation, quasi- scientific explanation. This talk
about a survival of ' unexpended mythological values '
carried him off his feet. He knew it was true.
Veiled behind that carefully chosen phrase was some-
thing more — a truth brilliantly discovered. He
knew, too, that it bit at the platform-boards upon
which his personality, his sanity, his very life, perhaps,
rested — his modern life.
' I forgive you. Dr. Stahl,' he heard himself saying
with a deceptive calmness of voice as they stood
shoulder to shoulder in that dark corner, ' for there
is really nothing to forgive. The characteristics
of these Urmenschen you describe attract me very
greatly. Your words merely give my imagination
a letter of introduction to my reason. They burrow
among the foundations of my life and being. At
least — you have done me no wrong. . . .' He
64 THE CENTAUR ix
knew the words were wild, impulsive, yet he could
find no better. Above all things he wished to con-
ceal his rising, grand delight.
' I thank you,' Stahl said simply, yet with a certain
confusion. ' I — felt I owed you this explanation — er
— this confession.'
* You wished to warn me .'' '
' I wished to say " Be careful " rather. I say it now
— Be careful ! I give you this invitation to share
my cabin for the remainder of the voyage, and I urge
you to accept it.' The offer was from the heart,
while the scientific interest in the man obviously half
hoped for a refusal.
* You think harm might come to me .'' '
' Not physically. The man is gentle and safe in
' But there is danger — in your opinion ^ ' insisted
' There is danger '
' That his influence may make me as himself — an
Urmensch ? '
' That he may — get you,' was the curious answer,
given steadily after a moment's pause.
Again the words thrilled O'Malley to the core of
his delighted, half-frightened soul. ' You really mean
that.? 'he asked again; 'as "doctor and scientist,"
you mean it ? '
Stahl repHed with a solemn anxiety in eyes and
voice. ' I mean that you have in yourself that
" quality " which makes the proximity of this " being "
dangerous : in a word that he may take you — er —
* Conversion .? '
They moved further up the deck together for
IX THE CENTAUR 6^
some minutes in silence, but the Irishman's feelings,
irritated by the man's prolonged evasion, reached a
degree of impatience that was almost anger. 'Let
us be more definite/ he exclaimed at length a trifle
hotly. * You mean that I might go insane ? '
• Not in the ordinary sense,' came the answer
without a sign of annoyance or hesitation ; * but
that something might happen to you — something
that science could not recognize and medical science
could not treat '
Then O'Malley interrupted him with the vital
question that rushed out before he could consider its
wisdom or legitimacy.
* Then what really is he — this man, this " being "
whom you call a " survival," and who makes you fear
for my safety. Tell me exactly what he is .? *
They found themselves just then by the doctor's
cabin, and Stahl, pushing the door open, led him in.
Taking the sofa for himself, he pointed to an arm-
'Superstition is outside reason ; so is revelation.' — Old Saying.
And O'Malley understood that he had pressed the
doctor to the verge of confessing some belief that he
was ashamed to utter or to hold, something forced
upon him by his out-of-the-way experience of life
to which his scientific training said peremptorily ' No.'
Further, that he watched him keenly all the time,
noting the effect his words produced.
* He is not a human being at all,' he continued
with a queer thin whisper that conveyed a gravity of
conviction singularly impressive, ' in the sense in
which you and I are accustomed to use the term.
His inner being is not shaped, as his outer body, upon
quite — human lines. He is a Cosmic Being — a
direct expression of cosmic life. A little bit, a
fragment, of the Soul of the World, and in that sense
a survival — a survival of her youth.'
The Irishman, as he listened to these utterly
unexpected words, felt something rise within him
that threatened to tear him asunder. Whether it was
joy or terror, or compounded strangely of the two,
he could not tell. It seemed as if he stood upon the
edge of hearing something — spoken by a man who
was no mere dreamer like himself — that would
explain the world, himself, and all his wildest cravings.
He both longed and feared to hear it. In his hidden
X THE CENTAUR 67
and most secret , thoughts, those thoughts he never
uttered to another, this deep belief in the Earth as a
conscious, sentient, living Being had persisted in
spite of all the forces education and modern life had
turned against it. It seemed in him an undying
instinct, an unmovable conviction, though he hardly
dared acknowledge it even to himself.
He had always ' dreamed ' the Earth alive, a mother-
ing organism to humanity ; and himself, via his love of
Nature, in some sweet close relation to her that other
men had forgotten or ignored. Now, therefore, to
hear Stahl talk of Cosmic Beings, fragments of
the Soul of the World, and * survivals of her early
life ' was like hearing a great shout of command to
his soul to come forth and share it in complete
He bit his lips, pinched himself, stared. Then he
took the black cigar he was aware was being handed
to him, lit it with fingers that trembled absurdly, and
smoked as hard as though his sanity depended on his
finishing it in a prescribed time. Great clouds rose
before his face. But his soul within him came up
with a flaming rush of speed, shouting, singing. . . .
There was enough ash to knock off into the bronze
tray beside him before either said a word. He watched
the little operation as closely as though he were aiming
a rifle. The ash, he saw, broke firmly. * This must
be a really good cigar,' he thought to himself, for as
yet he had not been conscious of tasting it. The ash-
tray, he also saw, was a kind of nymph, her spread
drapery forming the receptacle. ' I must get one of
those,' he thought. ' I wonder what they cost.'
Then he puiFed violently again. The doctor had
risen and was pacing the cabin floor slowly over by
the red curtain that concealed the bunk. O'Malley
68 THE CENTAUR x
absent-mindedly watched him, and as he did so the
words he had heard kept on roaring at the back of his
And then, while silence still held the room, — swift,
too, as a second although it takes time to write —
flashed through him a memory of Fechner, the
German philosopher who held that the Universe was
everywhere consciously alive, and that the Earth was
the body of a living Entity, and that the World-Soul
or Cosmic Consciousness is something more than a
picturesque dream of the ancients. . . .
The doctor came to anchor again on the sofa
opposite. To his great relief he was the first to
break the silence, for O'Malley simply did not know
how or where to begin.
' We know to-day — you certainly know for I've
read it accurately described in your books — that the
human personality can extend itself under certain
conditions called abnormal. It can project portions
of itself, show itself even at a distance, operate away
from the central covering body. In exactly similar
fashion may the Being of the Earth have projected
portions of herself in the past. Of such great powers
or beings there may be conceivably a survival . . .
a survival of a hugely remote period when her
Consciousness was manifested, perhaps, in shapes and
forms long since withdrawn before the tide of
advancing humanity . . . forms of which poetry
and legend alone have caught a flying memory and
called them gods, monsters, mythical beings of all
sorts and kinds. . . .'
And then, suddenly, as though he had been de-
liberately giving his imagination rein yet now
regretted it, his voice altered, his manner assumed a
shade of something colder. He shifted the key, as
X THE CENTAUR 69
though to another aspect of his belief. The man
was talking swiftly of his experiences in the big and
private hospitals. He was describing the very belief
to which he had first found himself driven — the belief
that had opened the door to so much more. So far
as O'Malley could follow it in his curiously excited
condition of mind, it was little more or less than a
belief he himself had often played lovingly with — the
theory that a man has a fluid or etheric counterpart
of himself which is obedient to strong desire and can,
under certain conditions, be detached — projected — in
a shape dictated by that desire.
He only realized this fully later perhaps, for the
doctor used a phraseology of his own. Stahl was
telling calmly how he had been driven to some such
belief by the facts that had come under his notice
both in the asylums and in his private practice.
*. . . That in the amazingly complex personality
of a human being,' he went on, * there does exist
some vital constituent, a part of consciousness, that
can leave the body for a short time without involving
death ; that it is something occasionally visible to
others ; something malleable by thought and desire —
especially by intense and prolonged yearning ; and
that it can even bring relief to its owner by satisfying
in some subjective fashion the very yearnings that
drew it forth.'
' Doctor ! You mean the " astral " .'' '
' There is no name I know of. I can give it none.
I mean in other words that it can create the condi-
tions for such satisfaction — dream-like, perhaps, yet
intense and seemingly very real at the time. Great
emotion, for instance, drives it forth, explaining thus
appearances at a distance, and a hundred other
phenomena that my investigations of abnormal
70 THE CENTAUR x
personality have forced me to recognize as true.
And nostalgia often is the means of egress, the
channel along which all the inner forces and desires
of the heart stream elsewhere toward their fulfilment
in some person, place, or dreamt
Stahl was giving himself his head, talking freely
of beliefs that rarely found utterance. Clearly it was
a relief to him to do so — to let himself be carried
away. There was, after all, the poet in him side by
side with the observer and analyst, and the funda-
mental contradiction in his character stood most
interestingly revealed. O'Malley listened, half in a
dream, wondering what this had to do with the
Cosmic Life just mentioned.
' Moreover, the appearance, the aspect of this
etheric Double, moulded thus by thought, longing,
and desire, corresponds to such thought, longing, and
desire. Its shape, when visible shape is assumed,
may be various — very various. The form might
conceivably be /<?//, discerned clairvoyantly as an
emanation rather than actually seen,' he continued.
Then he added, looking closely at his companion,
*and in your own case this Double — it has always
seemed to me — may be peculiarly easy of detachment
from the rest of you.'
' I certainly create my own world and slip into
it — to some extent,' murmured the Irishman, absorb-
ingly interested ; * — reverie and so forth ; partially,
at any rate.'
* " Partially," yes, in your reveries of waking
consciousness,' Stahl took him up, ' but in sleep — in
the trance consciousness — completely ! And therein
lies your danger,' he added gravely ; ' for to pass
out completely in waking consciousness, is the next
step — an easy one ; and it constitutes, not so much
X THE CENTAUR 71
a disorder of your being, as a readjustment, but a
readjustment difficult of sane control.' He paused
again. * You pass out while fully awake — a waking
delusion. It is usually labelled — though in my
opinion wrongly so — insanity.'
* I'm not afraid of that,' O'Malley laughed, almost
nettled. ' I can manage myself all right — have done
so far, at any rate.'
It was curious how the r61es had shifted.
O'Malley it was now who checked and criticized.
' I suggest caution,' was the reply, made earnestly.
' I suggest caution.'
' I should keep your warnings for mediums,
clairvoyants, and the like,' said the other tartly. He
was half amazed, half alarmed even while he said it.
It was the personal application that annoyed him.
* They are rather apt to go off their heads, I believe.'
Dr. Stahl rose and stood before him as though
the words had given him a cue he wanted. ' From
that very medium - class,' he said, ' my most
suggestive " cases " have come, though not for one
moment do I think of including you with them.
Yet these very " cases " have been due one and all to
the same cause — the singular disorder I have just
They stared at one another a moment in silence.
Stahl, whether O'Malley liked it or no, was impressive.
He gazed at the little figure in front of him, the
ragged untidy beard, the light shining on the bald
skull, wondering what was coming next and what all
this bewildering confession of unorthodox belief was
leading up to. He longed to hear more about that
hinted Cosmic Life . . . and how yearning might
lead to its realization.
' For any phenomena of the s6ance-room that may
72 THE CENTAUR x
be genuine,' he heard him saying, ' are produced by
this fluid, detachable portion of the personality, the
very thing we have been speaking about. They are
projections of the personality — automatic projections
of the consciousness.'
And then, like a clap of thunder upon his bewild-
ered mind, came this man's amazing ultimatum,
linking together all the points touched upon and
bringing them to a head. He repeated it emphati-
'And in similar fashion,' concluded the calm,
dispassionate voice beside him, ' there have been
projections of the Earth's great consciousness — direct
expressions of her cosmic life — Cosmic Beings. And
of these distant and primitive manifestations, it is
conceivable that one or two may still — here and there
in places humanity has never stained — actually
survive. This man is one of them.'
He turned on the two electric lights behind him
with an admirable air of finality. The extraordinary
talk was at an end. He moved about the cabin,
putting chairs straight and toying with the papers
on his desk. Occasionally he threw a swift and
searching glance at his companion, like a man who
wished to note the effect of an attack.
For, indeed, this was the impression that his
listener retained above all else. This flood of wild,
unorthodox, speculative ideas had been poured upon
him helter-skelter with a purpose. And the abrupt-
ness of the climax was cleverly planned to induce
impulsive, hot confession.
But O'Malley found no words. He sat there in
his arm-chair, passing his fingers through his tumbled
hair. His inner turmoil was too much for speech or
questions . . . and presently, when the gong for
X THE CENTAUR 73
dinner rang noisily outside the cabin door, he rose
abruptly and went out without a single word. Stahl
turned to see him go. He merely nodded with a
But he did not go to his state-room. He walked
the deck alone for a time, and when he reached the
dining-room, Stahl, he saw, had already come and
gone. Halfway down the table, diagonally across,
the face of the big Russian looked up occasionally at
him and smiled, and every time he did so the Irish-
man felt a sense of mingled alarm and wonder greater
than anything he had ever known in his life before.
One of the great doors of life again had opened.
The barriers of his heart broke away. He was no
longer caged and manacled within the prison of a
puny individuality. The world that so distressed
him faded. The people in it were dolls. The fur-
merchant, the Armenian priest, the tourists and the
rest were mere automatic puppets, all made to scale
— petty scale, amazingly dull, all exactly alike —
tiny, unreal, half alive.
The ship, meanwhile, he reflected with a joy that
was passion, was being borne over the blue sea, and
this sea lay spread upon the curved breast of the
round and spinning earth. He, too, and the big
Russian lay upon her breast, held close by gravity so-
called, caught closer still, though, by something else
besides. And his longings increased with his under-
standing. Stahl, wittingly or unwittingly, had given
them an immense push forwards.
* In scientific terms one can say : Consciousness is everywhere ; it
is awake when and wherever the bodily energy underlying the spiritual
exceeds that degree of strength which we call the threshold. According
to this, consciousness can be localized in time and space.' — Fechner,
Buchlein votn Leben nach dent Tode.
The offer of the cabin, meanwhile, remained open.
In the solitude that O'Malley found necessary that
evening he toyed with it, though knowing that he
would never really accept.
Like a true Celt his imagination took the main
body of Stahl's words and ensouled them with his
own vivid temperament. There stirred in him this
nameless and disquieting joy that wrought for itself
a Body from material just beyond his thoughts — that
region of enormous experience that ever fringes the
consciousness of imaginative men. He took the
picture at its face value, took it inside with his own
thoughts, delighted in it, raised it, of course, very
soon to a still higher scale. If he criticized at all it
was with phrases like ' The man's a poet after all !
Why, he's got creative imagination ! ' To find his
own intuitions endorsed, even half explained, by a
mind of opposite type was a new experience. It
emphasized amazingly the reality of that inner world
he lived in.
This explanation of the big Russian's effect upon
XI THE CENTAUR 75
himself was terrific, and that a * doctor ' should have
conceived it, glorious. That some portion of a man's
spirit might assume the shape of his thoughts and
project itself visibly seemed likely enough. Indeed,
to him, it seemed already a ' fact,' and his tempera-
ment did not linger over it. But that other
suggestion fairly savaged him with its strange
grandeur. He played lovingly with it.
That the Earth was a living being was a con-
ception divine in size as in simplicity, and that the
Gods and mythological figures had been projections
of her consciousness — this thought ran with a
magnificent new thunder about his mind. It was
overwhelming, beautiful as Heaven and as gracious.
He saw the ancient shapes of myth and legend still
alive in some gorgeous garden of the primal world, a
corner too remote for humanity to have yet stained
it with their trail of uglier life. He understood
in quite a new way, at last, those deep primitive
longings that hitherto had vainly craved their full
acknowledgment. It meant that he lay so close to
the Earth that he felt her pulses as his own. The
idea stormed his belief.
It was the Soul of the Earth herself that all these
years had been calling to him.
And while he let his imagination play with the
soaring beauty of the idea, he remembered certain odd
little facts. He marshalled them before him in a row
and questioned them : The picture he had seen with
the Captain's glasses — those speeding shapes of beauty ;
the new aspect of a living Nature that the Russian's
presence stirred in him ; the man's broken words as
they had leaned above the sea in the dusk ; the
curious passion that leaped to his eyes when certain
chance words had touched him at the dinner-table.
76 THE CENTAUR xi
And, lastly, the singular impression of giant bulk he
produced sometimes upon the mind, almost as though
a portion of him — this detachable portion moulded
by the quality of his spirit as he felt himself to be —
emerged visibly to cause it.
Vaguely, in this way, O'Malley divined how
inevitable was the apparent isolation of these two,
and why others instinctively avoided them. They
seemed by themselves in an enclosure where the
parent lumberingly, and the boy defiantly, disported
themselves with a kind of lonely majesty that forbade
And it was later that same night, as the steamer
approached the Lipari Islands, that the drive forward
he had received from the doctor's words was increased
by a succession of singular occurrences. At the
same time, Stahl's deliberate and as he deemed it un-
justifiable interference, helped him to make up his
mind decisively on certain other points.
The first ' occurrence ' was of the same order as
the * bigness ' — extraordinarily difficult, that is, to
confirm by actual measurement.
It was ten o'clock, Stahl still apparently in his
cabin by himself, and most of the passengers below
at an impromptu concert, when the Irishman, coming
down from his long solitude, caught sight of the
Russian and his boy moving about the dark after-
deck with a speed and vigour that instantly arrested
his attention. The suggestion of size, and of rapidity
of movement, had never been more marked. It was
as though a cloud of the summer darkness moved
Then, going cautiously nearer, he saw that they
were neither walking quickly, nor running, as he had
first supposed, but — to his amazement — were stand-
XI THE CENTAUR 77
ing side by side upon the deck — stock still. The
appearance of motion, however, was not entirely a
delusion, for he next saw that, while standing there
steady as the mast and life-boats behind them, some-
thing emanated shadow-like from both their persons
and seemed to hover and play about them — some-
thing that was only approximately of their own
outer shapes, and very considerably larger. Now
it veiled them, now left them clear. He thought
of smoke-clouds moving to and fro about dark
So far as he could focus his sight upon them, these
' shadows,' without any light to cast them, moved in
distorted guise there on the deck with a motion that
was somehow rhythmical — a great movement as of
dance or gambol.
As with the appearance of ' bigness,' he perceived
it first out of the corner of his eye. When he looked
again he saw only two dark figures, motionless.
He experienced the sensation a man sometimes
knows on entering a deserted chamber in the night-
time, and is aware that the things in it have just that
instant — stopped. His arrival puts abrupt end to
some busy activity they were engaged in, which
begins again the moment he goes. Chairs, tables,
cupboards, the very spots and patterns of the wall
have just flown back to their usual places whence
they watch impatiently for his departure — with the
This time, on a deck instead of in a room,
O'Malley with his candle had surprised them in the
act : people, moreover, not furniture. And this
shadowy gambol, this silent Dance of the Emanations,
immense yet graceful, made him think of Winds
flying, visible and uncloaked, somewhere across long
78 THE CENTAUR xi
hills, or of Clouds passing to a stately, elemental
measure over the blue dancing-halls of an open sky.
His imagery was confused and gigantic, yet very
splendid. Again he recalled the pictured shapes
seen with his mind's eye through the Captain's
glasses. And as he watched, he felt in himself
what he called ' the wild, tearing instinct to run and
join them,' more even — that by rights he ought to
have been there from the beginning — dancing with
them — indulging a natural and instinctive and
rhythmical movement that he had somehow for-
The passion in him was very strong, very urgent,
it seems, for he took a step forward, a call of some
kind rose in his throat, and in another second he
would have been similarly cavorting upon the deck,
when he felt his arm clutched suddenly with vigour
from behind. Some one seized him and held him
back. A German voice spoke with a guttural whisper
in his ear.
Dr. Stahl, crouching and visibly excited, drew
him forward a little. * Hold up ! ' he heard
whispered — for their india-rubber soles slithered on
the wet decks. ' We shall see from here, eh ? See
something at last ? ' He still whispered. O'Malley's
sudden anger died down. He could not give vent
to it without making noise, for one thing, and above
all else he wished to — see. He merely felt a vague
wonder how long Stahl had been watching.
They crouched behind the lee of a boat. The
outline of the ship rose, distinctly visible against the
starry sky, masts, spars, and cordage. A faint gleam
came through the glass below the compass - box.
The wheel and the heaps of coiled rope beyond rose
and fell with the motion of the vessel, now against
THE CENTAUR 79
the stars, now black against the phosphorescent foam
that trailed along the sea like shining lace. But the
human figures, he next saw, were now doing nothing,
not even pacing the deck ; they were no longer of
unusual size either. Quietly leaning over the rail,
father and son side by side, they were guiltless of
anything more uncommon than gazing into the sea.
Like the furniture, they had just — stopped !
Dr. Stahl and his companion waited motionless
for several minutes in silence. There was no sound
but the dull thunder of the screws, and a faint windy
whistle the ship's speed made in the rigging. The
passengers were all below. Then, suddenly, a burst
of music came up as some one opened a saloon port-
hole and as quickly closed it again — a tenor voice
singing to the piano some trivial modern song with a
trashy sentimental lilt. It was — in this setting of
sea and sky — painful ; O'Malley caught himself
thinking of a barrel-organ in a Greek temple.
The same instant father and son, as though
startled, moved slowly away down the deck into the
further darkness, and Dr. Stahl tightened his grip
of the Irishman's arm with a force that almost made
him cry out. A gleam of light from the opened
port-hole had fallen about them before they moved.
Quite clearly it revealed them bending busily over,
heads close together, necks and shoulders thrust
forward and down a little.
' Look, by God ! ' whispered Stahl hoarsely as
they moved off. * There's a third ! '
He pointed. Where the two had been standing
something, indeed, still remained. Concealed hitherto
by their bulk, this other figure had been left. They
saw its large, dim outline. It moved. Apparently
it began to climb over the rails, or to move in some
8o THE CENTAUR xi
way just outside them, hanging half above the sea.
There was a free, swaying movement about it, not
ungainly so much as big — very big.
* Now, quick ! ' whispered the doctor excited, in
English ; * this time I find out, sure ! '
He made a violent movement forward, a pocket
electric lamp in his hand, then turned angrily,
furiously, to find that O'Malley held him fast.
There was a most unseemly struggle — for a minute,
and it was caused by the younger man's sudden
passionate instinct to protect his own from discovery,
if not from actual capture and destruction.
Stahl fought in vain, being easily overmatched ;
he swore vehement German oaths under his breath ;
and the pocket-lamp, of course unlighted, fell and
rattled over the deck, sliding with the gentle roll of
the steamer to leeward. But O'Malley 's eyes, even
while he struggled, never for one instant left the spot
where the figure and the ' movement ' had been ; and
it seemed to him that when the bulwarks dipped
against the dark of the sea, the moving thing
completed its eflfbrts and passed into the waves with
a swift leap. When the vessel righted herself again
the outline of the rail was clear.
Dr. Stahl, he then saw, had picked up the lamp
and was bending over some mark upon the deck,
examining a wide splash of wet upon which he
directed the electric flash. The sense of revived
antagonism between the men for the moment was
strong, too strong for speech. O'Malley feeling
half ashamed, yet realized that his action had been
instinctive, and that another time he would do just
the same. He would fight to the death any too
close inspection, since such inspection included also
now — himself.
THE CENTAUR 8i
The doctor presently looked up. His eyes shone
keenly in the gleam of the lamp, but he was no
' There is too much water,' he said calmly, as
though diagnosing a case ; ' too much to permit of
definite traces.' He glanced round, flashing the
beam about the decks. The other two had dis-
appeared. They were alone. ' It was outside the
rail all the time, you see,' he added, ' and never quite
reached the decks.' He stooped down and examined
the splash once more. It looked as though a wave
had topped the scuppers and left a running line of
foam and water. ' Nothing to indicate its exact
nature,' he said in a whisper that conveyed something
between uneasiness and awe, again turning the light
sharply in every direction and peering about him.
' It came to them — er — from the sea, though ; it
came from the sea right enough. That, at least, is
positive.' And in his manner was perhaps just a
touch to indicate relief.
' And it returned into the sea,' exclaimed O'Malley
triumphantly. It was as though he related his own
The two men were now standing upright, facing
one another. Dr. Stahl, betraying no sign of resent-
ment, looked him steadily in the eye. He put the
lamp back into his pocket. When he spoke at
length in the darkness, the words were not precisely
what the Irishman had expected. Under them his
own vexation and excitement faded instantly. He
felt almost sheepish when he remembered his
* I forgive your behaviour, of course,' Stahl said,
* for it is consistent — splendidly consistent — with my
theory of you ; and of value, therefore. I only now
82 THE CENTAUR xi
urge you again ' — he moved closer, speaking almost
solemnly — 'to accept the offer of a berth in my
cabin. Take it, my friend, take it — to-night.'
* Because you wish to watch me at close
' No,' was the reply, and there was sympathy in
the voice, * but because you are in danger — especially
There was a moment's pause before O'Malley
* It is kind of you, Dr. Stahl, very kind,' he
answered slowly, and this time with grave politeness ;
* but I am not afraid, and I see no reason to make
the change. And as it's now late,' he added some-
what abruptly, almost as though he feared he might
be persuaded to alter his mind, ' I will say good-
night and turn in — if you will forgive me — at
Dr. Stahl said no further word. He watched
him, the other was aware, as he moved down the
deck towards the saloon staircase, and then turned
once more with his lamp to stoop over the splashed
portion of the boards. He examined the place
apparently for a long time.
But O'Malley, as he went slowly down the hot
and stuffy stairs, realized with a wild and rushing
tumult of joy that the 'third' he had seen was of
a splendour surpassing the little figures of men, and
that something deep within his own soul was most
gloriously akin with it. A link with the Universe
had been subconsciously established, tightened up,
adjusted. From all this living Nature breathing
about him in the night, a message had reached the
strangers and himself — a message shaped in beauty
and in power. Nature had become at last aware of
xr THE CENTAUR 83
his presence close against her ancient face. Hence-
forth would every sight of Beauty take him direct to
the place where Beauty comes from. No middleman,
no Art was necessary. The gates were opening.
Already he had caught a glimpse.
In the state-room he found, without surprise some-
how, that his new companions had already retired for
the night. The curtain of the upper berth was
drawn, and on the sofa-bed below the opened port-
hole the boy already slept. Standing a moment in
the little room with these two close, he felt that he
had come into a new existence almost. Deep within
him this sense of new life thrilled and glowed. He
was shaking a little all over, not with the mere
tremor of excitement, however, but with the tide of
a vast and rising exultation he could scarce contain.
For his normal self was too small to hold it. It
demanded expansion, and the expansion it claimed
had already begun. The boundaries of his personality
were enormously extending.
In words this change escaped him wholly. He
only knew that something in him of an old unrest
lay down at length and slept. Less acute grew those
pangs of starvation his life had ever felt — the ache
of that inappeasable hunger for the beauty and
innocence of some primal state before thick human
crowds had stained the world with all their strife and
clamour. The glory of it burned white within him.
And the way he described it to himself was
significant of its true nature. For it was the analogy
XII THE CENTAUR 85
of childhood. The passion of a boy's longing swept
over him. He knew again the feelings of those
early days when
A boy's will is the wind's will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts,
when all the world smells sweet and golden as a
summer's day, and a village street is endless as the
sky. . . .
This it was, raised to its highest power, that
dropped a hint of explanation into that queer heart
of his wherein had ever burned the strange desire for
primitive existence. It was the Call, though, not of
his own youth alone, but of the youth of the world.
A mood of the Earth's consciousness — some giant
expression of her cosmic emotion — caught him.
And it was the big Russian who acted as channel and
Before getting into bed, he drew aside the little
red curtain that screened his companion, and peered
cautiously through the narrow slit. The big occupant
of the bunk also slept, his mane-like hair spread
about him over the pillow, and on his great, placid
face a look of peace that seemed to deepen with
every day the steamer neared her destination.
O'Malley gazed for a full minute and more. Then
the sleeper felt the gaze, for suddenly the eyelids
quivered, moved, and lifted. The large brown eyes
peered straight into his own. The Irishman, unable
to turn away in time, stood fixed and staring in
return. The gentleness and power of the look
passed straight down into his heart, filled him to the
brim with things their owner knew, and confirmed
that appeasement of his own hunger, already begun.
'I tried — to prevent the — interference,' he
86 THE CENTAUR
stammered in a low voice. ' I held him back. You
saw me ? '
A huge hand stretched forth from the bunk to
stop him. Impulsively he seized it with both his
own. At the first contact he started — a little
frightened. It felt so wonderful, so mighty. Thus
might a gust of wind or a billow of the sea have
thrust against him.
*A messenger — came,' said the man with that
laborious slow utterance, and deep as thunder,
* from — the — sea.'
' From — the — sea, yes,' repeated O'Malley beneath
his breath, yet conscious rather that he wanted to
shout and sing it. He saw the big man smile.
His own small hands were crushed in the grasp
of power. ' I — understand,' he added in a
whisper. He found himself speaking with a similar
clogged utterance. Somehow, it seemed, the language
they ought to have used was either forgotten or
unborn. Yet whereas his friend was inarticulate
perhaps, he himself was — dumb. These little modern
words were all wrong and inadequate. Modern
speech could only deal with modern smaller things.
The giant half rose in his bed, as though at first
to leap forward and away from it. He tightened an
instant the grasp upon his companion's hands, then
suddenly released them and pointed across the cabin.
That smile of happiness spread upon his face.
O'Malley turned. There the boy lay, deeply
slumbering, the clothes flung back so that the air
from the port-hole played over the bare neck and
chest ; upon his face, too, shone the look of peace
and rest his father wore, the hunted expression all
gone, as though the spirit had escaped in sleep.
The parent pointed, first to the boy, then to himself,
THE CENTAUR 87
then to this new friend standing beside his bed.
The gesture including the three of them was of
singular authority — invitation, welcome, and com-
mand lay in it. More — in some incomprehensible
way it was majestic. O'Malley's thought flashed
upon him the limb of some great oak tree, swaying
in the wind.
Next, placing a finger on his lips, his eyes once
more swept O'Malley and the boy, and he turned
again into the little bunk that so difficultly held him,
and lay back. The hair flowed down and mingled
with the beard, over pillow and neck, almost to the
shoulders. And something that was enormous and
magnificent lay back with him, carrying with it
again that sudden atmosphere of greater bulk.
With a deep sound in his throat that was certainly
no actual word and yet more expressive than any
speech, he turned hugely over among the little,
scanty sheets, drew the curtain again before his face,
and returned into the world of — sleep.
' It may happen that the earthly body falls asleep in one direction
deeply enough to allow it in others to awaken far beyond its usual
limits, and yet not so deeply and completely as to awaken no more.
Or, to the subjective vision there comes a Hash so unusually vivid as
to bring to the earthly sense an impression rising above the threshold
from an otherwise inaccessible distance. Here begin the wonders of
clairvoyance, of presentiments, and premonitions in dreams ; — pure
fables, if the future body and the future life are fables ; otherwise signs
of the one and predictions of the other ; but what has signs exists, and
what has prophecies will come.' — Fechner, Buchlein vom Leben nach
But O'Malley rolled into his own berth below without
undressing, sleep far from his eyes. He had heard
the Gates of ivory and horn swing softly upon their
opening hinges, and the glimpse he caught of the
garden beyond made any question of slumber
impossible. Again he saw those shapes of cloud and
wind flying over the long hills, while the name that
should describe them ran, hauntingly splendid, along
the mysterious passages of his being, though never
coming quite to the surface for capture.
Perhaps, too, he was glad that the revelation was
only partial. The size of the vision thus invoked
awed him a little, so that he lay there half wondering
at the complete surrender he had made to this
guidance of another soul.
Stahl's warnings ran far away and laughed. The
idea even came to him that Stahl was playing with
him : that his portentous words had been carefully
XIII THE CENTAUR 89
chosen for their heightening effect upon his own
imagination so that the doctor might study an
uncommon and extreme 'case.' The notion passed
through him merely, without lingering.
In any event it was idle to put the brakes on
now. He was internally committed and must go
wherever it might lead. And the thought rejoiced
him. He had climbed upon a pendulum that swung
into an immense past ; but its return swing would
bring him safely back. It was rushing now into that
nameless place of freedom that the primitive portion
of his being had hitherto sought in vain, and a
fundamental, starved craving of his life would know
satisfaction at last. Already life had grown all
glorious without. It was not steel engines but a
speeding sense of beauty that drove the ship over
the sea with feet of winged blue darkness. The
stars fled with them across the sky, dropping golden
leashes to draw him faster and faster forwards — yet
within — to the dim days when this old world yet was
young. He took his fire of youth and spread it, as
it were, all over life till it covered the entire world,
far, far away. Then he stepped back into it, and
the world herself, he found, stepped with him.
He lay listening to the noises of the ship, the
thump and bumble of the engines, the distant dron-
ing of the screws under water. From time to time
stewards moved down the corridor outside, and the
footsteps of some late passenger still paced the decks
overhead. He heard voices, too, and occasionally
the clattering of doors. Once or twice he fancied
some one moved stealthily to the cabin door and
lingered there, but the matter never drew him to
investigate, for the sound each time resolved itself"
naturally into the music of the ship's noises.
90 THE CENTAUR xiii
And everything, meanwhile, heard or thought, fed
the central concern upon which his mind was busy.
These superficial sounds, for instance, had nothing to
do with the real business of the ship ; that lay below
with the buried engines and the invisible screws
that worked like demons to bring her into port.
And with himself and his slumbering companions
the case was similar. Their respective power-
stations, working in the subconscious, had urged
them towards one another inevitably. How long,
he wondered, had the spirit of that lonely, alien
* being ' flashed messages into the void that reached
no receiving-station tuned to their acceptance }
Their accumulated power was great, the currents
they generated immense. He knew. For had they
not charged full into himself the instant he came
on board, bringing an intimacy that was immediate
and full-fledged .''
The untamed longings that always tore him when
he felt the great winds, moved through forests, or
found himself in desolate places, were at last on
the high road to satisfaction — to some ' state ' where
all that they represented would be explained and
fulfilled. And whether such ' state ' should prove
to be upon the solid surface of the earth, objective ;
or in the fluid regions of his inner being, subjective
— was of no account whatever. It would be true.
The great figure that filled the berth above him,
now deeply slumbering, had in him subterraneans
that gave access not only to Greece, but far beyond
that haunted land, to a state of existence symbolized
in the legends of the early world by Eden and the
Golden Age. . . .
* You are in danger,' that wise old speculative
doctor had whispered, ' and especially in sleep ! '
XIII THE CENTAUR 91
But he did not sleep. He lay there thinking,
thinking, thinking, a rising exaltation of desire
paving busily the path along which eventually he
As the night advanced and the lesser noises
retired, leaving only the deep sound of the steamer
talking to the sea, he became aware, too, that a
change, at first imperceptibly, then swiftly, was steal-
ing over the cabin. It came with a riot of silent
Beauty. At a loss to describe it with precision, he
nevertheless divined that it proceeded from the
sleeping figure overhead and in a lesser, measure,
too, from the boy upon the sofa opposite. It
emanated from these two, he felt, in proportion as
their bodies passed into deeper and deeper slumber,
as though what occurred sometimes upon the decks
by an act of direct volition, took place now auto-
matically and with a fuller measure of release. Their
spirits, free of that other world in sleep, were alert
and potently discharging. Unconsciously, their vital,
underlying essence escaped into activity.
Growing about his own person, next, it softly
folded him in, casing his inner being with glory
and this crowding sense of beauty. This increased
manifestation of psychic activity reached down into
the very core of himself, like invisible fingers play-
ing upon an instrument. Notes — powers — in his
soul, hitherto silent because none had known how
to sound them, rose singing to the surface. For it
seemed at length that forms of some intenser life,
busily operating, moved to and fro within the painted
white walls of that little cabin, working subtly to
bring about a transformation of himself. A singular
change was fast and cleverly at work in his own being.
It was, he puts it, a silent and irresistible Evocation.
92 THE CENTAUR xiii
No one of his senses was directly affected ;
certainly he neither saw, felt, nor heard anything
in the usual acceptance of the terms ; but any
instant surely, it seemed that all his senses must
awake and report to the mind things that were
splendid beyond the common order. In the crudest
aspect of it, he felt as though he extended and grew
large — that he dreaded to see himself in the mirror
lest he might witness an external appearance of
bigness which corresponded to this interior expansion.
For a long time he lay unresisting, letting the
currents of this subjective tempest play through and
round him. Entrancing sensations of beauty and
rapture came with it. The outer world seemed
remote and trivial, the passengers unreal — the priest,
the voluble merchant, the jovial Captain, all spun
like dead things at the periphery of life ; whereas
he was moving toward the Centre, Stahl ! the
thought of Dr. Stahl, alone intruded with a certain
unwelcome air of hindrance, almost as though he
sought to end it, or call a halt. But Stahl, too,
himself presently spun off like a leaf before the
rising wind. ...
And then it was that an external sense was tapped,
and he did hear something. From the berth over-
head came a faint sound that made his heart stand
still, though not with common fear. He listened
intently. The blood tearing through his ears at
first concealed its actual nature. It was far, far
away ; then came closer, as a waft of wind brings
near and carries off again a sound of bells in
mountains. It fled over vales and hills, to return
a moment after with suddenness — a little louder, a
little nearer. And with it came an increase of this
sense of beauty that stretched his heart, as it were,
XIII THE CENTAUR 93
to some deep ancient scale of joy once known, but
long forgotten. . . .
Across the cabin, the boy moved uneasily in his sleep.
' Oh, that I could be with him where he now
is ! ' he cried, * in that place of eternal youth and
eternal companionship I ' The cry was instinctive
utterly ; his whole being, condensed in the single
yearning, pressed through it — drove behind it. The
place, the companionship, the youth — all, he knew,
would prove in some strange way enormous, vast,
ultimately satisfying for ever and ever, far out of
this little modern world that imprisoned him. . . .
Again, most unwelcome and unexplained, the
face of Stahl flashed suddenly before him to hinder
and interrupt. He banished it with an effort, for
it brought a smaller comprehension that somehow
involved — fear.
' Curse the man ! ' flamed in anger across his
world of beauty, and the violence of the contrast
broke something in his mind like a globe of coloured
glass that had focussed the exquisiteness of the
vision. . . . The sound continued as before, but
its power of evocation lessened. The thought of
Stahl — Stahl in his denying aspect — dimmed it.
Glancing up at the frosted electric light, O'Malley
felt vaguely that if he turned it out he would somehow
yet see better, hear better, understand more ; and it was
this practical consideration, introduced indirectly by
the thought of Stahl, that made him realize now for
the first time that he actually and definitely was —
afraid. For, to leave his bunk with its comparative,
protective dark, and step into the middle of a cabin
he knew to be alive with a seethe of invisible charg-
ing forces made him realize that distinct effort was
necessary — effort of will. If he yielded he would
94 THE CENTAUR xiii
be caught up and away, swept from his known
moorings, borne through high space out of himself.
And Stahl with his cowardly warnings and belittle-
ments set fear, thus, in the place of free acceptance.
Otherwise he might even have come to these long
blue hills where danced and raced the giant shapes
of cloud, singing while ... ^
' Singing ' ! Ah ! There was the clue ! The
sound he heard was singing — faint, low singing ;
close beside him too. It was the big man, singing
softly in his sleep.
This ordinary explanation of the ' wonder-sound *
brought him down to earth, and so to a more normal
feeling of security again. He stepped cautiously
from the bed, careful not to let the rings rattle on
the rod of brass, and slowly raised himself upright.
And then, through a slit of the curtain, he — saw.
The lips of the big sleeper moved gently, the beard
rising and falling very slightly with them, and this
murmur that he had thought so far away, came out
and sang deliciously and faint before his very face. It
most curiously — flowed. Easily, naturally, almost
automatically, it poured softly forth, and the Irish-
man at once understood why he had first mistaken it
for an echo of wind from distant hills. The imagery
was entirely accurate. For it was precisely the sing-
ing cry that wind makes in a keyhole, in a chimney,
or passing idly over the sweep of grassy hills.
Exactly thus had he often listened to it swishing
through the crannies of high rocks, tuneless yet
searching. In it, too, there lay some accent of a
secret, dim sublimity, deeper far than any other
human sound could touch. The terror of a great
freedom caught him, a freedom most awfully remote
from the smaller personal existence he knew To-
xiii THE CENTAUR 95
day . . . for it suggested, with awe and wonder, the
kind of primitive utterance that was before speech or
the development of language ; when emotions were
still too vague and mighty to be caught by little
words, but when beings, close to the heart of their
great Mother, expressed the feelings, enormous and
uncomplex, of the greater life they shared as portions
of her — projections of the Earth herself.
With a crash in his brain, O'Malley stopped.
These thoughts, he suddenly realized, were not his
own. An attack of unwonted sensations stung and
scattered his mind with a rush of giant splendour
that threatened to overwhelm him. He was in the
very act of being carried away ; his sense of personal
identity menaced ; surrender wellnigh already complete.
Another moment, especially if those eyes opened
and caught him, he would be beyond recall in the
region of these other two. The narrow space of
that little cabin was charged already to the brim,
filled with some overpowering loveliness of wild and
simple things, the beauty of stars and winds and
flowers, the terror of seas and mountains ; strange
radiant forms of gods and heroes, nymphs, fauns
and satyrs ; the fierce sunshine of some Golden Age
unspoilt, of a stainless region now long forgotten and
denied — that world of splendour his heart had ever
craved in vain, and beside which the life of To-day
faded to a wretched dream.
It was the Urwelt calling. . . .
With a violent internal effort, he tore his gaze
from those eyelids that fortunately opened not. At
the same moment, though he did not hear them,
steps came close in the corridor, and there was a
rattling of the knob. Behind him, a movement
from the berth below the port-hole warned him that
96 THE CENTAUR xiii
he was but just in time. The Vision he was afraid
as yet to acknowledge drew with such awful speed
towards the climax.
Quickly he turned away, lifted the hook of the
cabin door, and passed into the passage, strangely
faint. A great commotion followed him out : father
and son both, it seemed, suddenly upon their feet.
And at the same time the sound of ' singing ' rolled
into the body of a great hushed chorus, as it were of
galloping winds that filled big valleys far away with a
gust of splendour, faintly roaring in some incredible
distance where no cities were, nor habitations of men ;
with a freedom, too, that was majestic and sublime.
Oh 1 the terrific gait of that life in an open world ! —
Golden to the winds ! — uncrowded ! — The cosmic
O'Malley shivered as he heard. For an instant,
the true grain of his inner life, picked out in flame
and silver, flashed clear. Almost — he knew himself
And there, in the dimly-lighted corridor, against
the panelling of the cabin wall, crouched Dr. Stahl
— listening. The pain of the contrast was vivid
beyond words. It seemed as if he had passed from
the thunder of organs to hear the rattling of tin cans.
Instantly he understood the force that all along had
held him back : the positive, denying aspect of this
man's mind — afraid.
* Tou ! ' he exclaimed in a high whisper. ' What
are you doing here ^ ' He hardly remembers what he
said. The doctor straightened up and came on tip-
toe to his side. He moved hurriedly.
* Come away,' he said vehemently under his breath.
' Come with me to my cabin — to the decks — any-
where away from this — before it's too late.'
XIII THE CENTAUR 97
And the Irishman then realized that his face was
white and that his voice shook. The hand that
■gripped him by the arm shook too.
They went quickly along the deserted corridor
and up the stairs, O'Malley making no resistance,
moving in a kind of dream. He has a fleeting recol-
lection of an odour, sweet and slightly pungent as of
horses, in his nostrils. The wind of the open decks
revived him, and he saw to his amazement that the
East was brightening. In that cabin, then, hours
had been compressed into minutes.
The steamer had already slipped by the Straits of
Messina. To the right he saw the cones of Etna,
shadowy in the sky, calling across the dawn to Strom-
boli their smoking brother of the Lipari. To the
left over the blue Ionian Sea the lights of a cloudless
sunrise rose softly above the world.
And the hour of enchantment seized and shook
him anew. Somewhere, across those faint blue waves,
lay the things that he so passionately sought. It
was the very essence of their loveliness and wonder
that had charged down between the walls of that
stuffy cabin below. For every morning still, at
dawn, the tired world knows again the splendours of
her youth ; and the Irishman, shuddering a little in
his sacred joy, felt that he must burst his bonds and
fly to join the sunrise and the sea. The yearning, he
was aware, had now increased a thousandfold : its
fulfilment was merely delayed.
He passed along the decks all slippery with dew
into Dr. Stahl's cabin, and flung himself on the broad
sofa to sleep. Sleep, too, came at once ; he was
profoundly exhausted ; and, while he slept, Stahl
watched over him, covering his body with a thick
'It is a lovely imagination responding to the deepest desires,
instincts, cravings of spiritual man, that spiritual rapture should find
an echo in the material world ; that in mental communion with God
we should find sensible communion with nature ; and that, when the
faithful rejoice together, bird and beast, hill and forest, should be not
felt only, but seen to rejoice along with them. It is not the truth ;
between us and our environment, whatever links there are, this link
is wanting. But the yearning for it, the passion which made Words-
worth cry out for something, even were it the imagination of a pagan,
which would make him "less forlorn," is natural to man ; and
simplicity leaps at the lovely fiction of a response. Just here is the
opportunity for such alliances between spiritualism and superstition
as are the daily despair of seekers after truth.' — Dr. Verrall.
And though he slept for hours the doctor never
once left his side, but sat there with pencil and note-
book, striving to catch, yet in vain, some accurate
record of the strange fragmentary words that fell
from his lips at intervals. His own face was aflame
with an interest that amounted to excitement. The
very hand that held the pencil trembled. One would
have said that thus somewhat a man might behave
who found himself faced with confirmation of some
vast, speculative theory his mind had played with
hitherto from a distance only.
Towards noon the Irishman awoke. The steamer,
still loading oranges and sacks of sulphur in the
Catania harbour, was dusty and noisy. Most of the
passengers were ashore, hurrying with guide-books
and field-glasses to see the statue of the dead Bellini
XIV THE CENTAUR 99
or watch the lava flow. A blazing, suffocating heat
lay over the oily sea, and the summit of the volcano,
with its tiny, ever-changing puff of smoke, soared
through blue haze.
To Stahl's remark, * You've slept eight hours,' he
replied, * But I feel as though I'd slept eight centuries
away.' He took the coffee and rolls provided, and
then smoked. The doctor lit a cigar. The red
curtains over the port-holes shut out the fierce sun,
leaving the cabin cool and dim. The shouting of
the lightermen and officers mingled with the roar and
scuttle of the donkey-engine. And O'Malley knew
perfectly well that while the other moved about
carelessly, playing with books and papers on his
desk, he was all the time keeping him under close
* Yes,' he continued, half to himself, ' I feel as if
I'd fallen asleep in one world and awakened into
another where life is trivial and insignificant, where
men work like devils for things of no value in order
to accumulate them in great ugly houses ; always
collecting and collecting, like mad children, posses-
sions that they never really possess — things external
to themselves, valueless and unreal '
Dr. Stahl came up quietly and sat down beside
him. He spoke gently, his manner kind and grave
rather. He put a hand upon his shoulder.
' But, my dear boy,' he said, the critical mood all
melted away, * do not let yourself go too completely.
That is vicious thinking, believe me. All details are
important — here and now — spiritually important, if
you prefer the term. The symbols change with the
ages, that is all.' Then, as the other did not reply,
he added : ' Keep yourself well in hand. Your
experience is of extraordinary interest — may even be
loo THE CENTAUR xiv
of value, to yourself as well as to — er — others. And
what happened to you last night is worthy of record
— if you can use it without surrendering your soul
to it altogether. Perhaps, later, you will feel able to
speak of it — to tell me in detail a little — ? '
His keen desire to know more evidently fought
with his desire to protect, to heal, possibly even to
* If I felt sure that your control were sufficient, I
could tell you in return some results of my own
study of — certain cases in the hospitals, you see, that
might throw light upon — upon your own curious
O'Malley turned with such abruptness that the
cigar ash fell down over his clothes. The bait was
strong, but the man's sympathy was not sufficiently
of a piece, he felt, to win his entire confidence.
' I cannot discuss beliefs,* he said shortly, * in the
speculative way you do. They are too real. A man
doesn't argue about his love, does he ? ' He spoke
passionately. * To-day everybody argues, discusses,
speculates : no one believes. If you had your way,
you'd take away my beliefs and put in their place
some wretched little formula of science that the next
generation will prove all wrong again. It's like the
N rays one of you discovered : they never really
existed at all.' He laughed. Then his flushed face
turned grave again. * Beliefs are deeper than dis-
coveries. They are eternal.'
Stahl looked at him a moment with admiration.
He moved across the cabin towards his desk.
* I am more with you than perhaps you under-
stand,' he said quietly, yet without too obviously
humouring him. * I am more — divided, that's all.'
' Modern ! ' exclaimed the other, noticing the
THE CENTAUR loi
ashes on his coat for the first time and brushing them
off impatiently. ' Everything in you expresses itself
in terms of matter, forgetting that matter being in
continual state of flux is the least real of all things '
* Our training has been difFerent,' observed Stahl
simply, interrupting him. 'I use another phraseology.
Fundamentally, we are not so far apart as you think.
Our conversation of yesterday proves it, if you have
not forgotten. It is people like yourself who supply
the material that teaches people like me — helps me
to advance — to speculate, though you dislike the term.'
The Irishman was mollified, though for some
time he continued in the same strain. And the
doctor let him talk, realizing that his emotion needed
the relief of this safety-valve. He used words
loosely, but Stahl did not check him ; it was merely
that the effort to express himself — this self that
could believe so much — found difficulty in doing so
coherently in modern language. He went very far.
For the fact that while Stahl criticized and denied,
he yet understood, was a strong incentive to talk.
O'Malley plunged repeatedly over his depth, and
each time the doctor helped him in to shore.
* Perhaps, ' said Stahl at length in a pause, ' the
greatest difi^erence between us is merely that whereas
you jump headlong, ignoring details by the way, I
climb slowly, counting the steps and making them
secure. I deny at first because if the steps survive
such denial, I know that they are permanent. I
build scaffolding. You fly.'
' Flight is quicker,' put in the Irishman.
* It is for the few,' was the reply ; * scaffolding is
' You spoke a few days ago of strange things,'
O'Malley said presently with abruptness, 'and spoke
I02 THE CENTAUR xiv
seriously too. Tell me more about that, if you will.'
He sought to lead the talk away from himself, since
he did not intend to be fully drawn. ' You said
something about the theory that the Earth is alive, a
living being, and that the early legendary forms of
life may have been emanations — projections of herself
— detached portions of her consciousness — or some-
thing of the sort. Tell me about that theory. Can
there be really men who are thus children of the
earth, fruit of pure passion — Cosmic Beings as you
hinted .? It interests me deeply.'
Dr. Stahl appeared to hesitate.
' It is not new to me, of course,' pursued the
other, ' but I should like to know more.'
Stahl still seemed irresolute. * It is true,' he
replied at length slowly, ' that in an unguarded
moment I let drop certain observations. It is better
you should consider them unsaid perhaps : forget
* And why, pray .? '
The answer was well calculated to whet his appetite.
' Because,' answered the doctor, bending over to
him as he crossed over to his side, * they are danger-
ous thoughts to play with, dangerous to the interests
of humanity in its present state to-day, unsettling
to the soul, shaking the foundations of sane conscious-
ness.' He looked hard at him. ' Your own mind,'
he added softly, * appears to me to be already on
their track. Whether you are aware of it or not,
you have in you that kind of very passionate desire
— of yearning — which might reconstruct them and
make them come true — for yourself — if you get out.'
O'Malley, his eyes shining, looked up into his face.
' " Reconstruct — make them come true — if I get
out " I ' he repeated stammeringly, fearful that if he
XIV THE CENTAUR 103
appeared too eager the other would stop. * You
mean, of course, that this Double in me would escape
and build its own heaven ? '
Stahl nodded darkly. ' Driven forth by your
intense desire.' After a pause he added, ' The process
already begun in you would complete itself.*
Ah ! So obviously what the doctor wanted was a
description of his sensations in that haunted cabin.
* Temporarily ? ' asked the Irishman under his
The other did not answer for a moment.
O'Malley repeated the question.
* Temporarily,' said Stahl, turning away again
towards his desk, ' unless — the yearning were too
* In which case .? '
' Permanently. For it would draw the entire
personality with it. . . .'
* The soul ? '
Stahl was bending over his books and papers.
The answer was barely audible.
' Death,' was the whispered word that floated
across the heavy air of that little sun-baked cabin.
The word if spoken at all was so softly spoken
that the Irishman scarcely knew whether he actually
heard it, or whether it was uttered by his own
thought. He only realized — catching some vivid
current from the other man's mind — that this separa-
tion of a vital portion of himself that Stahl hinted at
might involve a kind of nameless inner catastrophe
which should mean the loss of his personality as it
existed to-day — an idea, however, that held no terror
for him if it meant at the same time the recovery of
what he so passionately sought.
And another intuition flashed upon its heels —
I04 THE CENTAUR xiv
namely, that this extraordinary doctor spoke of
something he knew as a certainty ; that his amazing
belief, though paraded as theory, was to him more
than theory. Had he himself undergone some
experience that he dared not speak of, and were his
words based upon a personal experience instead of,
as he pretended, merely upon the observation of
others ? Was this a result of his study of the big
man two years ago ? Was this the true explanation
of his being no longer an assistant at the H
hospital, but only a ship's doctor ? Had this
' modern ' man, after all, a flaming volcano of
ancient and splendid belief in him, akin to what was
in himself, yet ever fighting it ?
Thoughts raced and thundered through his mind
as he watched him across the cigar smoke. The
rattling of that donkey-engine, the shouts of the
lightermen, the thuds of the sulphur-sacks — how
ridiculous they all sounded, the clatter of a futile,
meaningless existence where men gathered — rubbish,
for mere bodies that lived amid dust a few years,
then returned to dust for ever.
He sprang from his sofa and crossed over to the
doctor's side. Stahl was still bending over a littered
* You, too,' he cried, and though trying to say it
loud, his voice could only whisper, ' you, too, must
have the Urmensch in your heart and blood, for
how else, by my soul, could you know it all } Tell
me, doctor, tell me ! ' And he was on the very
verge of adding, * Join us ! Come and join us ! '
when the little German turned his bald head slowly
round and fixed upon the excited Irishman such a
cool and quenching stare that instantly he felt himself
convicted of foolishness, almost of impertinence.
XIV THE CENTAUR 105
He dropped backwards into an arm-chair, and the
doctor at the same moment let himself down upon
the revolving stool that was nailed to the floor in
front of the desk. His hands smoothed out papers.
Then he leaned forward, still holding his companion's
eyes with that steady stare which forbade familiarity.
* My friend,' he said quietly in German, ' you
asked me just now to tell you of the theory —
Fechner's theory — that the Earth is a living, conscious
Being. If you care to listen, I will do so. We have
time.' He glanced round at the shady cabin, took
down a book from the shelf before him, puffed his
black cigar and began to read.
* It is from one of your own people — William
James ; what you call a " Hibbert Lecture " at
Manchester College. It gives you an idea, at least,
of what Fechner saw. It is better than my own
So Stahl, in his turn, refused to be ' drawn.'
O'Malley, as soon as he recovered from the abrupt-
ness of the change from that other conversation,
gave all his attention. The uneasy feeling that he
was being played with, coaxed as a specimen to the
best possible point for the microscope, passed away
as the splendour of the vast and beautiful concep-
tion dawned upon him, and shaped those nameless
yearnings of his life in glowing language.
The shadows of the September afternoon were
lengthening towards us from the Round Pond by
the time O'Malley reached this stage of his curious
and fascinating story. It was chilly under the trees,
and the ' wupsey-up, wupsey-down ' babies, as he
termed them, had long since gone in to their teas, or
whatever it is that London babies take at six o'clock.
We strolled home together, and he welcomed the
idea of sharing a dinner we should cook ourselves in
the tiny Knightsbridge flat. ' Stew-pot evenings,'
he called these occasions. They reminded us of
camping trips together, although it must be confessed
that in the cage-like room the ' stew ' never tasted
quite as it did beside running water on the skirts of
the forest when the dews were gathering on the little
gleaming tent, and the wood-smoke mingled with
the scents of earth and leaves.
Passing that grotesque erection opposite the
Albert Hall, gaudy in the last touch of sunset, I
saw him shudder. The spell of the ship and sea and
that blazing Sicilian sunshine lay still upon us, Etna's
cones towering beyond those gilded spikes of the
tawdry Memorial. I stole a glance at my companion.
His light blue eyes shone, but with the reflection of
another sunset — the sunset of forgotten, ancient,
far-off scenes when the world was young.
XV THE CENTAUR 107
His personality held something of magic in that
silent stroll homewards, for no word fell from either
one of us to break its charm. The untidy hair
escaped from beneath the broad-brimmed old hat,
and his faded coat of grey flannel seemed touched
with the shadows that the dusk brings beneath wild-
olive trees. I noticed the set of his ears, and how
the upper points of them ran so sharply into the
hair. His walk was springy, light, very quiet,
suggesting that he moved on open turf where a sudden
running jump would land him, not into a motor-bus,
but into a mossy covert where ferns grew. There
was a certain fling of the shoulders that had an air of
rejecting streets and houses. Some fancy, wild and
sweet, caught me of a faun passing down through
underbrush of woodland glades to drink at a forest
pool ; and, chance giving back to me a little verse
of Alice Corbin's, I turned and murmured it while
watching him :
What dim Arcadian pastures
Have I known,
That suddenly, out of nothing,
A wind is blown,
Lifting a veil and a darkness,
Showing a purple sea —
And under your hair, the faun's eyes
Look out on mc ?
It was, of course, that whereas his body marched
along Hill Street and through Montpelier Square, his
thoughts and spirit flitted through the haunted, old-
time garden he for ever craved. I thought of the
morrow — of my desk in the Life Insurance Ofiice,
of the clerks with oiled hair brushed back from the
forehead, all exactly alike, trousers neatly turned up
to show fancy coloured socks from bargain sales,
io8 THE CENTAUR xv
their pockets full of cheap cigarettes, their minds
busy with painted actresses and the names of
horses ! A Life Insurance Office ! All London
paying yearly sums to protect themselves against —
against the most interesting moment of life.
Premiums upon escape and freedom !
Again, it was the spell of my companion's
personality that turned all this paraphernalia of the
busy, modern existence into the counters in some
grotesque and rather sordid game. To-morrow, of
course, it would all turn real and earnest again,
O'Malley's story a mere poetic fancy. But for the
moment I lived it with him, and found it
And the talk we had that evening when the stew-
pot was empty and we were smoking on the narrow-
ledged roof of the prison-house — for he always
begged for open air, and with cushions we often sat
beneath the stars and against the grimy chimney-pots
— that talk I shall never forget. Life became con-
structed all anew. The power of the greatest fairy
tale this world can ever know lay about me, raised to
its highest expression. I caught at least some touch
of reality — of awful reality — in the idea that this
splendid globe whereon we perched like insects peep-
ing timidly from tiny cells, might be the body of a
glorious Being — the mighty frame to which some
immense Collective Consciousness, vaster than that of
men, and wholly different in kind, might be attached.
In the story, as I found it later in the dusty little
Paddington room, O'Malley reported, somewhat
heavily, it seemed to me, the excerpts chosen by Dr.
Stahl. As an imaginative essay, they were interesting,
of course, and vitally suggestive, but in a tale of
adventure such as this they overweight the barque of
XV THE CENTAUR 109
fancy. Yet, in order to appreciate what followed, it
seems necessary for the mind to steep itself in some-
thing of his ideas. The reader who dreads to think,
and likes his imagination to soar unsupported, may
perhaps dispense with the balance of this section ;
but to be faithful to the scaffolding whereon this
Irishman built his amazing dream, I must attempt as
best I can some precis of that conversation.
* Every fragment of visible Nature might, as far as is known, serve
as part in some organism unlike our bodies. ... As to that which
can, and that which cannot, play the part of an organism, we know
very little. A sameness greater or less with our own bodies is the
basis from which we conclude to other bodies and souls. ... A certain
likeness of outward form, and again some amount of similarity in
action, are what we stand on when we argue to psychical life. But
our failure, on the other side, to discover these symptoms is no sufficient
warrant for positive denial. It is natural in this connection to refer
to Fechner's vigorous advocacy.' — F. H- Bradley, Appearance and
It was with an innate resistance — at least a stubborn
prejudice — that I heard him begin. The earth, of
course, was but a bubble of dried fire, a huge round
clod, dead as mutton. How could it be, in any
permissible sense of the word — alive .?
Then, gradually, as he talked there among the
chimney-pots of old smoky London, there stole over
me this new and disquieting sense of reality — a strange,
vast splendour, too mighty to lie in the mind with
comfort. Laughter fled away, ashamed. A new
beauty, as of some amazing dawn, flashed and
broke upon the world. The autumn sky overhead,
thick-sown with its myriad stars, came down close,
sifting gold and fire about my life's dull ways. That
desk in the Insurance Ofiice of Cornhill gleamed
beyond as an altar or a possible throne.
The glory of Fechner's immense speculation flamed
THE CENTAUR iii
about us both, majestic yet divinely simple. Only
a dim suggestion of it, of course, lay caught in the
words the Irishman used — words, as I found later,
that were a mixture of Professor James and Dr. Stahl,
flavoured strongly with Terence O'Malley — but a
suggestion potent enough to have haunted me ever
since and to have instilled meanings of stupendous
divinity into all the commonest things of daily exist-
ence. Mountains, seas, wide landscapes, forests, — all
I see now with emotions of wonder, delight, and awe
unknown to me before. Flowers, rain, wind, even a
London fog, have come to hold new meanings.
I never realized before that the mere size of our
old planet could have hindered the perception of so
fair a vision, or that her mere quantitative bulk have
killed automatically in the mind the possible idea of
her being in some sense living. A microbe, endowed
with our powers of consciousness, might similarly
deny life to the body of the elephant on which it
rode ; or some wee arguing atom, endowed with
mind and senses, persuade itself that the monster
upon whose flesh it dwelt were similarly a * heavenly
body ' of dead, inert matter ; the bulk of the ' world '
that carried them obstructing their perception of its
And Fechner, as it seems, was no mere dreamer,
playing with a huge poetical conception. Professor
of Physics in Leipzig University, he found time amid
voluminous labours in chemistry to study electrical
science with the result that his measurements in
galvanism are classic to this day. His philosophical
work was more than considerable. ' A book on the
atomic theory, classic also ; four elaborate mathe-
matical and experimental volumes on what he called
psychophysics (many persons consider Fechner to
112 THE CENTAUR xvi
have practically founded scientific psychology in the
first of these books) ; a volume on organic evolution,
and two works on experimental aesthetics, in which
again Fechner is thought by some judges to have
laid the foundations of a new science,' are among his
other performances. ... * All Leipsic mourned him
when he died, for he was the pattern of the ideal
German scholar, as daringly original in his thought
as he was homely in his life, a modest, genial,
laborious slave to truth and learning. . . . His mind
was indeed one of those multitudinously organized
cross-roads of truth which are occupied only at rare
intervals by children of men, and from which nothing
is either too far or too near to be seen in due per-
spective. Patientest observation, exactest mathe-
matics, shrewdest discrimination, humanest feeling,
flourished in him on the largest scale, with no ap-
parent detriment to one another. He was in fact a
philosopher in the " great " sense.' ^
' Yes,' said O'Malley softly in my ear as we
leaned against the chimneys and watched the tobacco
curl up to the stars, ' and it was this man's imagina-
tion that had evidently caught old Stahl and bowled
him over. I never fathomed the doctor quite. His
critical and imaginative apparatus got a bit mixed
up, I suspect, for one moment he cursed me for
asking " suspicious questions," and the next sneered
sarcastically at me for boiling over with a sudden
inspirational fancy of my own. He never gave
himself away completely, and left me to guess that
he made that Hospital place too hot to hold him.
He was a wonderful bird. But every time I aimed
at him I shot wide and hit a cloud. Meantime he
peppered me all over — one minute urging me into
* Professor William James, A Pluralistic Universe.
XVI THE CENTAUR 113
closer intimacy with my Russian — his cosmic being,
his Urmensch type — so that he might study my
destruction, and half an hour later doing his utmost
apparently to protect me from him and keep me sane
and balanced.' His laugh rang out over the roofs.
' The net result,' he added, his face tilted towards
the stars as though he said it to the open sky rather
than to me, ' was that he pushed me forwards into
the greatest adventure life has ever brought to me.
1 believe, I verily believe that sometimes, there were
moments of unconsciousness — semi-consciousness
perhaps — when I really did leave my body — caught
away as Moses, or was it Job or Paul ? — into a Third
Heaven, where I touched a bit of Reality that fairly
made me reel with happiness and wonder.*
'Well, but Fechner — and his great idea.?' I
brought him back.
He tossed his cigarette down into the back-garden
that fringed the Park, leaning over to watch its zig-
zag flight of flame.
' Is simply this,' he replied, ' — " that not alone the
earth but the whole Universe in its difl?erent spans
and wave-lengths, is everywhere alive and conscious."
He regards the spiritual as the rule in Nature, not
the exception. The professorial philosophers have
no vision. Fechner towers above them as a man of
vision. He dared to imagine. He made discoveries
— whew ! ! ' he whistled, ' and such discoveries ! '
' To which the scholars and professors of to-day,'
I suggested, ' would think reply not even called for .f*'
' Ah,' he laughed, ' the solemn-faced Intellectuals
with their narrow outlook, their atrophied vision,
and their long words 1 Perhaps ! But in Fechner's
universe there is room for every grade of spiritual
being between man and God. The vaster orders of
114 THE CENTAUR xvi
mind go with the vaster orders of body. He believes
passionately in the Earth Soul, he treats her as our
special guardian angel ; we can pray to the Earth as
men pray to their saints. The Earth has a Collective
Consciousness. We rise upon the Earth as wavelets
rise upon the ocean. We grow out of her soil as
leaves grow from a tree. Sometimes we find our bigger
life and realize that we are parts of her bigger col-
lective consciousness, but as a rule we are aware only
of our separateness, as individuals. These moments
of cosmic consciousness are rare. They come with
love, sometimes with pain, music may bring them
too, but above all — landscape and the beauty of
Nature ! Men are too petty, conceited, egoistic to
welcome them, clinging for dear life to their precious
He drew breath and then went on : * " Fechner
likens our individual persons on the earth to so many
sense-organs of her soul, adding to her perceptive
life so long as our own life lasts. She absorbs our
perceptions, just as they occur, into her larger sphere
of knowledge. When one of us dies, it is as if an eye
of the world were closed, for all perceptive contri-
butions from that particular quarter cease." ' ^
' Go on,' I exclaimed, realizing that he was ob-
viously quoting verbatim fragments from James that
he had since pondered over till they had become his
own. ' Tell me more. It is delightful and very
' Yes,' he said, ' I'll go on quick enough, provided
you promise me one thing : and that is — to under-
stand that Fechner does not regard the Earth as a
sort of big human being. If a being at all, she is a
being utterly different from us in kind, as of course
1 Professor William James, A Pluralistic Universe.
XVI THE CENTAUR 115
we know she is in structure. Planetary beings, as a
class, would be totally different from any other beings
that we know. He merely protests at the presump-
tion of our insignificant human knowledge in denying
some kind of life and consciousness to a form so
beautifully and marvellously organized as that of the
earth ! The heavenly bodies, he holds, are beings
superior to men in the scale of life — a vaster order
of intelligence altogether. A little two-legged man
with his cocksure reason strutting on its tiny brain
as the apex of attainment he ridicules. D'ye see,
I gasped. I lit a big pipe — and listened. He
went on. This time it was clearly a page from that
Hibbert Lecture Stahl had mentioned — the one in
which Professor James tries to give some idea of
Fechner's aim and scope, while admitting that he
' inevitably does him miserable injustice by summar-
izing and abridging him.'
' Ages ago the earth was called an animal,' I
ventured. ' We all know that.'
' But Fechner,' he replied, ' insists that a planet is
a higher class of being than either man or animal — " a
being whose enormous size requires an altogether
different plan of life." '
* An inhabitant of the ether — ? '
' You've hit it,' he replied eagerly. ' Every
element has its own living denizens. Ether, then,
also has hers — the globes. "The ocean of ether,
whose waves are light, has also her denizens — higher
by as much as their element is higher, swimming
without fins, flying without wings, moving, immense
and tranquil, as by a half-spiritual force through the
half-spiritual sea which they inhabit," ^ sensitive to the
* Professor William James, A Pluralistic Uni-verse.
ii6 THE CENTAUR xvi
slightest pull of one another's attraction : beings in
every way superior to us. Any imagination, you
know,' he added, * can play with the idea. It is
old as the hills. But this chap showed how and why
it could be actually true.'
' This superiority, though .? ' I queried. ' I should
have guessed their stage of development lower than
ours, rather than higher.'
* Different,' he answered, ' different. That's the
* Ah ! ' I watched a shooting star dive across our
thick, wet atmosphere, and caught myself wondering
whether the flash and heat of that hurrying little
visitor produced any reaction in this Collective
Consciousness of the huge Body whereon we perched
and chattered, and upon which later it would fall in
' It is by insisting on the differences as well as on
the resemblances,' rushed on the excited O'Malley,
*that he makes the picture of the earth's life so
concrete. Think a moment. For instance, our
animal organization comes from our inferiority. Our
need of moving to and fro, of stretching our limbs
and bending our bodies, shows only our defect.'
* Defect ! ' I cried. * But we're so proud of it I *
* "What are our legs,' " he laughed, ' "but crutches,
by means of which, with restless efforts, we go
hunting after the things we have not inside ourselves ^
The Earth is no such cripple ; why should she who
already possesses within herself the things we so
painfully pursue, have limbs analogous to ours ?
What need has she of arms, with nothing to reach
for ? Of a neck with no head to carry .? Of eyes or
nose, when she finds her way through space without
either, and has the millions of eyes of all her animals
XVI THE CENTAUR 117
to guide their movements on her surface, and all their
noses to smell the flowers she grows ? " ' ^
' We are literally a part of her, then — projections
of her immense life, as it were — one of the projections,
at least ? '
' Exactly. And just as we are ourselves a part of
the earth,' he continued, taking up my thought at
once, ' so are our organs her organs. " She is, as
it were, eye and ear over her whole extent — all that
we see and hear in separation she sees and hears at
once." ' ^ He stood up beside me and spread his
hands out to the stars and over the trees and paths
of the Park at our feet, where the throngs of men and
women walked and talked together in the cool of the
evening. His enthusiasm grew as the idea of this
German's towering imagination possessed him.
' " She brings forth living beings of countless
kinds upon her surface, and their multitudinous
conscious relations with each other she takes up into
her higher and more general conscious life." ' ^
He leaned over the parapet and drew me to his
side. I stared with him at the reflection of London
town in the sky, thinking of the glow and heat and
restless stir of the great city and of the frantic
strivings of its millions for success — money, power,
fame, a few, here and there, for spiritual success.
The roar of its huge trafficking beat across the night
in ugly thunder to our ears. I thought of the other
cities of the world ; of its villages ; of shepherds
among the lonely hills ; of its myriad wild creatures
in forest, plain, and mountain. . . .
' All this she takes up into her great heart as part
of herself! ' I murmured.
* All this,' he replied softly, as the sound of the
* Professor William James, A Pluralistic Universe.
ii8 THE CENTAUR xvi
Band beyond the Serpentine floated over to us on
our roof; ' — the separate little consciousnesses of
all the cities, all the tribes, all the nations of men,
animals, flowers, insects — everything.' He again
opened his arms to the sky. He drew in deep breaths
of the night air. The dew glistened on the slates
behind us. Far across the towers of Westminster a
yellow moon rose slowly, dimming the stars. Big
Ben, deeply booming, trembled on the air nine of
her stupendous vibrations. Automatically, I counted
them — subconsciously.
' And all our subconscious sensations are also
hers,' he added, catching my thought again ; * our
dreams but half divined, our aspirations half confessed,
our tears, our yearnings, and our — prayers.'
At the moment it almost seemed to me as if our
two minds joined, each knowing the currents of the
other's thought, and both caught up, gathered in,
folded comfortably away into the stream of a Con-
sciousness far bigger than either. It was like a
momentary, specific proof of what he urged — a faint
pulse-beat we heard of the soul of the earth ; and it
was amazingly uplifting.
' Every form of life, then, is of importance,' I
heard myself thinking, or saying, for I hardly knew
which. ' The tiniest efforts of value — even the
unrecognized ones, and those that seem futile.'
* Even the failures,' he whispered, ' — the
moments when we do not trust her.'
We stood for some moments in silence. Presently,
with a hand upon my shoulder, he drew me down
again among our rugs against the chimney-stack.
* And there are some of us,' he said gently, yet
with a voice that held the trembling of an immense
joy, 'who know a more intimate relationship with
XVI THE CENTAUR 119
their great Mother than the rest, perhaps. By the
so-called Love of Nature, or by some artless simplicity
of soul, wholly unmodern of course, perhaps felt by
children or poets mostly, they lie caught close to her
own deep life, knowing the immense sweet guidance
of her mighty soul, divinely mothered, strangers to
all the strife for material gain — to that " unrest which
men miscall delight," — primitive children of her
potent youth . . . offspring of pure passion . . .
each individual conscious of her weight and drive
behind him ' His words faded away into a whisper
that became unintelligible, then inaudible ; but his
thought somehow continued itself in my own mind.
' The simple life,' I said in a low tone ; * the Call
of the Wild, raised to its highest power .? *
But he changed my sentence a little.
' The call,' he answered, without turning to look
at me, speaking it into the night about us, ' the call
to childhood, the true, pure, vital childhood of the
Earth — the Golden Age — before men tasted of the
Tree and knew themselves separate ; when the lion
and the lamb lay down together and a little child
could lead them. A time and state, that is, of which
such phrases can be symbolical.'
' And of which there may be here and there some
fearful exquisite survival ? ' I suggested, remembering
His eyes shone with the fire of his passion. * Of
which on that little tourist steamer I found one ! '
The wind that fanned our faces came perhaps across
the arid wastes of Bays water and the North- West.
It also came from the mountains and gardens of this
lost Arcadia, vanished for most beyond recovery. . . .
* The Hebrew poets called it Before the Fall,' he
went on, ' and later poets the Golden Age ; to-day
I20 THE CENTAUR xvi
it shines through phrases like the Land of Heart's
Desire, the Promised Land, Paradise, and what not ;
while the mind of saint and mystic have ever dreamed
of it as union with their deity. For it is possible
and open to all, to every heart, that is, not blinded
by the cloaking horror of materialism which blocks
the doorways of escape and prisons self behind the
drab illusion that the outer form is the reality and.
not the inner thought. . . .'
The hoarse shouting of a couple of drunken
men floated to us from the pavements, and crossing
over, we peered down towards the opening of Sloane
Street, watching a moment the stream of broughams,
motors, and pedestrians. The two men with the
rage of an artificial stimulant in their brains reeled
out of sight. A big policeman followed slowly.
The night-life of the great glaring city poured on
unceasingly — the streamof souls all hurrying by divers
routes and means towards a state where they sought
to lose themselves — to forget the pressure of the
bars that held them — to escape the fret and worry
of their harassing personalities, and touch some fringe
of happiness ! All so sure they knew the way — yet
hurrying really in the wrong direction — outwards
instead of inwards ; afraid to be — simple. . . .
We moved back to our rugs. For a long time
neither of us found anything to say. Soon I led the
way down the creaking ladder indoors again, and
we entered the stuffy little sitting-room of the tiny
flat he temporarily occupied. I turned up an electric
light, but O'Malley begged me to lower it. 1 only
had time to see that his eyes were still aglow. We
sat by the open window. He drew a worn note-
book from his still more worn coat ; but it was too
dark for him to read. He knew it all by heart.
Some of Fechner's reasons for thinking the Earth
a being superior in the scale to ourselves, he gave,^
but it was another passage that lingered chiefly in
my heart, the description of the daring German's
joy in dwelling upon her perfections — later, too, of
* ' What are the marks of superiority . . . ? Fechner points out
that the earth possesses each ana all of them more perfectly than we.
He considers in detail the points of difference between us, and shows
them all to make for the Earth's higher rank. . . .
' One of them, of course, is independence of other external beings.
External to the earth are only the other heavenly bodies. All the
things on which we externally depend for life — air, water, plant and
animal food, fellow-men, etc. — are included in her as her constituent
parts. She is self-sufficing in a million respects in which we are not
so. We depend on her for almost everything, she on us for but a
small portion of her history. She swings us in her orbit from winter
to summer and revolves us from day into night and night into day.
' Complexity in unity is another sign of superiority. The total
earth's complexity far exceeds that of any organism, for she includes
all our organisms in herself, along with an infinite number of things
that our organisms fail to include. Yet how simple and massive are
the phases of her own proper life ! As the total bearing of any
animal is sedate and tranquil compared with the agitation of its blood
corpuscles, so is the earth a sedate and tranquil being compared with
the animals whom she supports.
* To develop from within, instead of being fashioned from without,
is also counted as something superior in men's eyes. An egg is a
higher style of being than a piece of clay which an external modeller
makes into the image of a oird. The earth's history develops from
within. . . .
'Individuality of type, and difference from other beings of its type,
is another mark of rank. The Earth differs from every other planet,
and as a class planetary beings are extraordinarily distinct from other
beings.' — William James, A Pluralistic Uni'verse.
122 THE CENTAUR xvii
his first simple vision. Though myself wholly of
the earth, earthy in the ordinary sense, the beauty of
the thoughts live in my spirit to this day, transfiguring
even that dingy Insurance Office, streaming through
all my dullest, hardest daily tasks with the inspiration
of a simple delight that helps me over many a difficult
weary time of work and duty.
' " To carry her precious freight through the hours
and seasons what form could be more excellent than
hers — being as it is horse, wheels, and waggon all in
one. Think of her beauty — a shining ball, sky-blue
and sunlit over one half, the other bathed in starry
night, reflecting the heavens from all her waters,
myriads of lights and shadows in the folds of her
mountains and windings of her valleys she would be
a spectacle of rainbow glory, could one only see her
from afar as we see parts of her from her own
mountain tops. Every quality of landscape that has
a name would then be visible in her all at once — all
that is delicate or graceful, all that is quiet, or wild,
or romantic, or desolate, or cheerful, or luxuriant, or
fresh. That landscape is her face — a peopled land-
scape, too, for men's eyes would appear in it like
diamonds among the dew-drops. Green would be
the dominant colour, but the blue atmosphere and the
clouds would enfold her as a bride is shrouded in
her veil — a veil the vapory, transparent folds of
which the earth, through her ministers the winds,
never tires of laying and folding about herself anew."
* She needs, as a sentient organism,' he continued,
pointing into the curtain of blue night beyond the
window, ' no heart or brain or lungs as we do, for
she is — different. " Their functions she performs
through us ! She has no proper muscles or limbs of
her own, and the only objects external to her arc
XVII THE CENTAUR 123
the other stars. To these her whole mass reacts by
the most exquisite alterations in its total gait
and by the still more exquisite vibratory responses
in its substance. Her ocean reflects the lights of
heaven as in a mighty mirror, her atmosphere refracts
them like a monstrous lens, the clouds and snow-fields
combine them into white, the woods and flowers
disperse them into colours. . . . Men have always
made fables about angels, dwelling in the light,
needing no earthly food or drink, messengers between
ourselves and God. Here are actually existent
beings, dwelling in the light and moving through the
sky, needing neither food nor drink, intermediaries
between God and us, obeying His commands. So,
if the heavens really are the home of angels, the
heavenly bodies must be those very angels, for other
creatures there are none. Yes ! the Earth is our
great common guardian angel, who watches over all
our interests combined." '
' And then,' whispered the Irishman, seeing that I
still eagerly listened, ' give your ear to one of his
moments of direct vision. Note its simplicity, and
the authority of its conviction :
' " On a certain spring morning I went out to walk.
The fields were green, the birds sang, the dew
glistened, the smoke was rising, here and there a
man appeared ; a light as of transfiguration lay on
all things. It was only a little bit of the earth ; it
was only a moment of her existence ; and yet as my
look embraced her more and more it seemed to me
not only so beautiful an idea, but so true and clear
a fact, that she is an angel, an angel so rich and
fresh and flower-like, and yet going her round in
the skies so firmly and so at one with herself, turning
her whole living face to Heaven, and carrying me
124 THE CENTAUR xvii
along with her into that Heaven, that I asked myself
how the opinions of men could ever have so spun
themselves away from life as to deem the earth only
a dry clod, and to seek for angels above it or about
it in the emptiness of the sky, — only to find them
Fire-engines, clanging as with a hurrying anger
through the night, broke in upon his impassioned
sentences ; the shouts of the men drowned his
last words. . . .
Life became very wonderful inside those tight,
confining walls, for the spell and grandeur of the
whole conception lifted the heart. Even if belief
failed, in the sense of believing — a shilling, it suc-
ceeded in the sense of believing — a symphony. The
invading beauty swept about us both. Here was
a glory that was also a driving power upon which
any but a man half dead could draw for practical use.
For the big conceptions fan the will. The little
pains of life, they make one feel, need not kill true
joy, nor deaden effort.
* Come,' said O'Malley softly, interrupting my
dream of hope and splendour, ' let us walk together
through the Park to your place. It is late, and you,
I know, have to be up early in the morning . . .
earlier than I.'
And presendy we passed the statue of Achilles
and got our feet upon the turf beyond — a little bit
of living planet in the middle of the heavy smother-
ing London town. About us, over us, within us,
stirred the awe of that immense idea. Upon that bit
of living, growing turf we passed towards the Marble
Arch, treading, as it were, the skin of a huge Body —
the physical expression of a grand angelic Being,
alive, sentient, conscious. Conscious, moreover, of
XVII THE CENTAUR 125
our little separate individual selves who walked . . .
a Being who cared ; who felt us ; who knew, under-
stood, and — loved us as a mother her own offspring.
. . . 'To whom men could pray as they pray to
The conception, even thus dimly and confusedly
adumbrated, brought a new sense of life — terrific and
eternal. All living things upon the earth's surface
were emanations of her mighty central soul ; all —
from the gods and fairies of olden time who knew it,
to the men and women of To-day who have forgotten
The gods !
Were these then projections of her personality —
aspects and facets of her divided self — emanations
now withdrawn.-* Latent in her did they still exist
as moods or Powers — true, alive, everlasting, but
unmanifest .? Still knowable to simple men and to
Children of Nature }
Was this the giant truth that Stahl had built on
Everything about us seemed to draw together
into an immense and towering configuration that
included trees and air and the sweep of open park —
the looming and overwhelming beauty of one of these
very gods survived — Pan, the eternal and the
splendid ... a mood of the Earth-life, a projection
clothed with the light of stars, the cloudy air, the
passion of the night, the thrill of an august, extended
And the others were not so very behind — those
other little parcels of Earth's Consciousness the
Greeks and early races, the simple, primitive, child-
like peoples of the dawn divined the existence of, and
labelled ' gods ' . . . and worshipped ... so as to
126 THE CENTAUR xvii
draw their powers into themselves by ecstasy and
vision . . . ?
Could, then, worship now still recall them ? Was
the attitude of even one true worshipper's heart the
force necessary to touch that particular aspect of the
mighty total Consciousness of Earth, and call forth
those ancient forms of beauty ? Could it be that
this idea — the idea of ' the gods ' — was thus for ever
true and vital . . . ? And might they be known
and felt in the heart if not actually in some suggested
I only know that as we walked home past the doors
of that dingy Paddington house where Terence
O'Malley kept his dusty books and papers and so
to my own quarters, these things he talked about
dropped into my mind with a bewildering splendour
to stay for ever. His words I have forgotten, or
how he made such speculations worth listening to at
all. Yet, I hear them singing in my blood as though
of yesterday ; and often when that conflict comes
'twixt duty and desire that makes life sometimes so
vain and bitter, the memory comes to lift with
strength far greater than my own. The Earth can
heal and bless.
Slowly, taking life easily, the little steamer pufFed
its way across the Ionian Sea. The pyramid of Etna,
bluer even than the sky, dominated the western
horizon long after the heel of Italy had faded, then
melted in its turn into the haze of cloud and distance.
No other sails were visible.
With the passing of Calabria spring had leaped
into the softness of full summer, and the breezes
were gentle as those that long ago fanned the cheeks
and hair of lo, beloved of Zeus, as she flew south-
wards towards the Nile. The passengers, less lovely
than that fair daughter of Argos, and with the unrest
of thinner adventure in their blood, basked lazily
in the sun ; but the sea was not less haunted for
those among them whose hearts could travel. The
Irishman at any rate slipped beyond the confines of
the body, viewing that ancient scene as she had done,
from above. His widening consciousness expanded
to include it.
Cachalots spouted ; dolphins danced, as though
still to those wild flutes of Dionysus ; porpoises
rolled beneath the surface of the transparent waves,
diving below the vessel's sides but just in time to save
their shiny noses ; and all day long, ignoring the
chart upon the stairway walls, the tourists turned their
glasses eastwards, searching for a first sight of Greece.
128 THE CENTAUR xviii
O'Malley, meanwhile, trod the decks of a new
ship. For him now sea and sky were doubly peopled.
The wind brought messages of some divine deliver-
ance approaching slowly ; the heat of that pearly,
shining sun warmed centres of his being that hitherto
the world kept chill. The land towards which the
busy steamer moved he knew, of course, was but the
shell from which the inner spirit of beauty once
vivifying it had long since passed away. Yet it
remained a clue. That ancient loveliness, as a mood
of the earth's early consciousness, was buried, not
destroyed. Eternally it still flamed somewhere.
And, long before the days of Greece, he knew, it
had existed in yet fuller and more complete mani-
festation : that earliest, vastly splendid Mood of the
earth's soul, too mighty for any existence that the
history of humanity can recall, and too remote for
any but the most daringly imaginative minds even to
conceive. The Urwelt Mood, as Stahl himself
admitted, even while it called to him, was a re-
construction that to men to-day could only seem —
And his own little Self, guided by the inarticulate
stranger, was being led at last towards its complete
Yet, while he crawled slowly with the steamer
over a tiny portion of the spinning globe, feeling that
at the same time he crawled towards a spot upon
it where access would be somehow possible to this
huge expression of her first Life — what was it, phrased
timidly as men phrase big thoughts to-day, that he
really believed } Even in our London talks, intimate
as they were, interpreted too by gesture, facial ex-
pression, and — silence, his full meaning evaded
precise definition. * There are no words, there are
XVIII THE CENTAUR 129
no words,' he kept saying, shrugging his shoulders
and stroking his untidy hair. ' In me, deep down,
it all lies clear and plain and strong ; but language
cannot seize a mode of life that throve before language
existed. If you cannot catch the picture from my
thoughts, I give up the whole dream in despair.'
And in his written account, owing to its strange
formlessness, the result was not a little bewildering.
Briefly stated, however — that remnant, at least,
which I discover in my own mind when attempting to
tell the story to others — what he felt, believed, livedo
at any rate while the adventure lasted, was this : —
That the Earth, as a living, conscious Being, had
known visible projections of her consciousness similar
to those projections of our own personality which the
advanced psychologists of to-day now envisage as
possible ; that the simple savagery of his own nature,
and the poignant yearnings derived from it, were in
reality due to his intimate closeness to the life of the
Earth ; that, whereas in the body the fulfilment of
these longings was impossible, in the spirit he might yet
know contact with the soul of the planet, and thus
experience their complete satisfaction. Further, that
the portion of his personality which could thus enter
this heaven of its own subjective construction, was
that detachable portion Stahl had spoken of as being
' malleable by desire and longing,' leaving the body
partially and temporarily sometimes in sleep, and,
at death, completely. More, — that the state thus
entered would mean a quasi-merging back into the
life of the Earth herself, of which he was a partial
This closeness to Nature was to-day so rare as to
be almost unrecognized as possible. Its possession
constituted its owner what the doctor called a ' Cosmic
I30 THE CENTAUR xviii
Being ' — a being scarcely differentiated from the life of
the Earth Spirit herself — a direct expression of her life,
a survival of a time before such expressions had
separated away from her and become individualized as
human creatures. Moreover, certain of these earliest
manifestations or projections of her consciousness,
knowing in their huge shapes of fearful yet simple
beauty a glory of her own being, still also survived.
The generic term of ' gods ' might describe their
status as interpreted to the little human power called
This call to the simple life of primal innocence
and wonder that had ever brimmed the heart of the
Irishman, acknowledged while not understood, might
have slumbered itself away with the years among
modern conditions into atrophy and denial, had he
not chanced to encounter a more direct and vital
instance of it even than himself. The powerflilly-
charged being of this Russian stranger had summoned
it forth. The mere presence of this man quickened
and evoked this faintly-stirring centre in his psychic
being that opened the channel of return. Speech, as
any other explanation, was unnecessary. To resist
was still within his power. To accept and go was also
open to him. The ' inner catastrophe ' he feared need
not perhaps be insuperable or permanent.
' Remember,' the doctor had said to him at the end
of that last significant conversation, * this berth in my
state-room is freely at your disposal till Batoum.' And
O'Malley, thanking him, had shaken off that restrain-
ing hand upon his arm, knowing that he would never
make use of it again.
For the Russian stranger and his son had some-
how made him free.
Between that cabin and the decks he spent his day.
XVIII THE CENTAUR 131
Occasionally he would go below to report progress, as
it were, by little sentences which he divined would be
acceptable, and at the same time gave expression to his
own growing delight. The boy, meanwhile, was
everywhere, playing alone like a wild thing; one
minute in the bows, hat ofF, gazing across the sea
beneath a shading hand, and the next leaning over the
stern-rails to watch the churning foam that drove
them forwards. At regular intervals he, too, rushed
to the cabin and brought communications to his parent.
' To-morrow at dawn,' observed the Irishman, * we
shall see Cape Matapan rising from the sea. After
that, Athens for a few hours ; then coasting through
the Cyclades, close to the mainland often.' And
glancing over to the berth, while pretending to be
busy with his steamer-trunk, he saw the great smile
of happiness break over the other's face like a
sunrise. . . .
For it was clear to him that with the approach to
Greece, a change began to come over his companions.
It was noticeable chiefly in the father. The joy that
filled the man, too fine and large to be named excite-
ment, passed from him in radiations that positively
seemed to carry with them a physical extension. This,
of course, was purely a clairvoyant effect upon the
mind — O'Malley's divining faculty visualized the
spiritual traits of the man's dilating Self. But,
nevertheless, the truth remained that — somehow he
increased. He grew ; became interiorly more active,
aUve, potent ; and of this singular waxing of the
inner spirit something passed outwards and stood
with rare dignity about his very figure.
And this manifestation of themselves was due to
that expansion of the inner life caused by happiness.
The little point of their personalities they showed
132 THE CENTAUR xvni
normally to the world was but a single facet, a tip as
it were of their whole selves. More lay within, beyond.
As with the rest of the world, a great emotion stimu-
lated and summoned it forth into activity nearer the
surface. Clearly, for these two Greece symbolized a
point of departure of a great hidden passion. Some-
thing they expected lay waiting for them there.
Guidance would come thence.
And, by reflection perhaps as much as by direct
stimulation, the same change made itself felt in himself.
Joy caught him — the joy of a home-coming, long
deferred. . . .
At the same time, the warning of Dr. Stahl worked
in him, if subconsciously only. He showed this by
mixing more with the other passengers. He chatted
with the Captain, who was as pleased with his big
family as though he had personally provided the
weather that made them happy ; with the Armenian
priest, who was eager to show that he had read ' a
much of T'ackeray and Keeplin ' ; and especially with
the boasting Moscow merchant, who by this time
' owned ' the smoking-room and imposed his verbose
commonplaces upon one and all with authoritative
self-confidence in six languages — a provincial mind in
full display. The latter in particular held him to
a normal humanity ; his atmosphere breathed the
wholesome thickness of the majority of humankind —
ordinary, egoistic, with the simplicity of the uninspir-
ing sort. The merchant acted upon him as a sedative,
and that day the Irishman took him in large doses,
allopathically, for his talk formed an admirable
antidote to the stress of that other burning excitement
that, according to Stahl, threatened to disintegrate his
Though hardly in the sense he intended, the fur-
XVIII THE CENTAUR 133
merchant was entirely delightful — engaging as a child ;
for, among other marked qualities, he possessed
the unerring instinct of the snob which made him
select for his friends those whose names or position
might glorify his banal insignificance — and his stories
were vivid pictorial illustrations of this useful worldly
faculty. O'Malley listened with secret delight,
keeping a grave face and dropping in occasional
innocent questions to heighten the colour or increase
the output. Others in the circle responded in kind,
feeling the same chord vibrating in themselves. Even
the priest, like a repeating-gun, continually discharged
his little secret pride that Byron had occupied a room
in that Venetian monastery where he lived ; and at
last O'Malley himself was conscious of an inclination
to report his own immense and recently discovered
kinship with a greater soul and consciousness than his
own. After all, he reflected with a deep thrill while
he listened, the desire of the snob was but a crude and
simple form of the desire of the mystic : — to lose
one's little self in a Self which is greater !
Then, weary of them all and their minute personal
interests, he left the smoking-room and joined the
boy again, running absurd races with him from stern
to bow, playing hide-and-seek among the decks, even
playing shuffle-board together. They sweated in the
blazing sun and watched the dance of the sea ;
caught the wind in their faces with a shout of joy,
or with pointing fingers followed the changing out-
lines of the rare, soft clouds that sailed the world ot
blue above them. There was no speech between
them, and both felt that other things, invisible, swift,
and spirit-footed, whose home is just beyond the
edge of life as the senses report life, played wildly
with them. The smoking-room then, with its
134 THE CENTAUR xviii
occupants so greedy for the things that money
connotes — the furs, champagne, cigars, and heavy
possessions that were symbols of the personal
aggrandizement they sought and valued — seemed to
the Irishman like a charnel-house where those about
to die sat making inventories in blind pride of the
things they must leave behind.
It was, indeed, a contrast of Death and Life.
For beside him, with that playing, silent boy, coursed
the power of transforming loveliness which had
breathed over the world before her surface knew
this swarming race of men. The life of the Earth
knew no need of outward acquisition, possessing all
things so completely in herself. And he — he was
her child — O glory ! Joy passing belief !
* Oh ! ' he cried once with passion, turning to the
fair-haired figure of youth who stood with him in
the bows, meeting the soft wind, — ' Oh, to have heard
the trees whispering together in the youth of the
world, and felt one of the earliest winds that ever
blew across the cooling seas ! '
And the boy, not understanding the words, but
responding with a perfect naturalness to the emotion
that drove them forth, seized his hand and with
an extraordinarily free motion as of flying, raced
with him down the decks, happy, laughing, hair
loose over his face, and with a singular action of
the shoulders as though he somehow — cantered.
O'Malley remembered his vision of the Flying
Shapes. . . .
Towards the evening, however, the boy dis-
appeared, keeping close to his father's side, and after
dinner both retired early to their cabin.
And the ship, meanwhile, drew ever nearer to the
' Privacy is ignorance.' — Josiah Royce.
Somewhat after the manner of things suffered
in vivid dreams, where surprise is numbed and
wonder becomes the perfect password, the Irishman
remembers the sequence of little events that filled
the following day.
Yet his excitement held nothing of the vicious
fling of fever ; it was spread over the entire being
rather than located hotly in the brain and blood
alone ; and it ' derived,' as it were, from tracts of
his personality usually unstirred, atrophied indeed
in most men, that connected him as by a delicate
network of feelers with Nature and the Earth. He
came gradually to feel them, as a man in certain
abnormal conditions becomes conscious of the bodily
processes that customarily go on in himself without
Stahl could have told him, had he cared to seek
the information, that this fringe of wider conscious-
ness, stretching to the stars and winds and earth, was
the very part that had caused his long unrest and
yearning — the part that knew the Earth as mother
and sought the sweet and savage freedom of what
he called with the poverty of modern terms —
primitive. The channels leading towards a state of
136 THE CENTAUR xix
Cosmic Consciousness, one with the Earth Life, were
being now flushed and sluiced by the forces emanat-
ing from the persons of his new companions.
And as this new state slowly usurped command,
the readjustment of his spiritual economy thus
involved, caused other portions of himself to sink
into temporary abeyance. While it alarmed him, it
was too delicious to resist. He made no real
attempt to resist. Yet he knew full well that the
portion sinking thus out of sight was what folk with
such high pride call Reason, Judgment, ,Common
In common with animal, bird, and insect life, all
intimately close to Nature, he began to feel as
realities those subtle currents of the Earth's
personality by which the seals know direction in the
depths of a thousand-mile sea, by which the homing
pigeons blaze trails through space, birds fly south,
the wild bees know their pathways, and all simple
life, from the Red Indian to the Red Ant, acknow-
ledges the viewless guidance of the mother's envelop-
ing heart. The cosmic life ran through his being,
lighting signals, offering service, more — claiming
With it, however, came no loss of individuality,
but rather a powerful increase of life by means of
which for the first time he dreamed of a fuller
existence which should eventually harmonize and
combine the ancient simplicity of soul that claimed
the Earth, with the modern complexity which,
indulged alone, rendered the world so ugly and
insignificant . . . ! He experienced an immense,
driving push upon what Bergson has called the
ilan vital of his being.
The opening charge of his new discovery, how-
XIX THE CENTAUR 137
ever, was more than disconcerting, and it is not
surprising that he lost his balance. Its attack and
rush were overwhelming. Thus, it was a kind of
exalted speculative wonder lying behind his inner
joy that caused his mistakes. He had imagined, for
instance, that the first sight of Greece would bring
some climax of revelation, making clear to what
particular type of early life the spirits of his
companions conformed ; more, that they would then
betray themselves to one and all for what they were
in some effort to escape, in some act of unrestraint,
something, in a word, that would explain themselves
to the world of passengers, and focus them upon
the doctor's microscope for ever.
Yet when Greece showed her first fair rim of
outline, his companions still slept peacefully in their
bunks. The anticipated denouement did not, appear.
Nothing happened. It was not the mere sight of so
much land lying upon the sea's cool cheek that
could prove vital in an adventure of such a kind.
For the adventure remained spiritual. O'Malley
had merely confused two planes of consciousness.
As usual, he saw the thing ' whole ' in that
extraordinary way to which his imagination alone
held the key ; and hence his error.
Yet the moment has ever remained for him one
of vital, stirring splendour, significant as life or
death. He remembers that he was early on deck
and saw the dawn blow up softly from behind the
islands with a fresh, salt wind that blew at
the same time like music into his very heart.
Golden clear it rose ; and just below, like the
petals of some vast, archetypal flower that gave it
birth, the low blue hills of coast and island opened
magically into blossom. The rocky cliffs of Matapan
138 THE CENTAUR xix
slipped past ; the smooth, bare slopes of the ancient
shore-line followed ; treeless peaks and shoulders,
abrupt precipices, summits and ridges all exquisitely
rosy and alive. He had seen Greece before, yet
never thus, and the emotion that invaded every
corner of his larger consciousness lay infinitely
deeper than any mere pseudo-classical thrill he had
known in previous years. He saw it, felt it, knew
it from within, instead of as a spectator from without.
This dawn-mood of the Earth was also his own ;
and upon his spirit, as upon her blue-crowned hills,
lay the tide of high light with its delicate swift blush.
He saw it with her — through one of her opened
The hot hours the steamer lay in the Piraeus
Harbour were wearisome, the noise of loading and
unloading cargo worse even than at Catania. While
the tourist passengers hurried fussily ashore, carrying
guide-books and cameras, to chatter among the ruined
temples, he walked the decks alone, dreaming his
great dream, conscious that he spun through leagues
of space with the great Being who more and more
possessed him. Beyond the shipping and the masts
collected there from all the ports of the Mediterranean
and the Levant, he watched the train puffing slowly
to the station that lay in the shadow of Theseus'
Temple, but his eyes at the same time strained across
the haze towards Eleusis Bay, and while his ears
caught the tramping feet of the long Torchlight
Procession, some power of his remoter consciousness
divined the forms of hovering gods, expressions of
his vast Mother's personality with which, in worship,
this ancient people had believed it possible to merge
themselves. The significant truths that lay behind
the Higher Mysteries, degraded since because
XIX THE CENTAUR 139
forgotten and misinterpreted, trooped powerfully
down into his mind. For the supreme act of this
profound cult, denied by a grosser age that seeks
to telephone to heaven, deeming itself thereby
* advanced,' lay in the union of the disciple with his
god, the god he worshipped all his life, and into
whose Person he slipped finally at death by a kind
of marriage rite.
* The gods ! ' ran again through his mind with
passion and delight, as the letter of his early studies
returned upon him, accompanied now for the first
time by the in-living spirit that interpreted them.
' The gods ! — Moods of her giant life, manifestations
of her spreading Consciousness pushed outwards,
Powers of life and truth and beauty . . . ! '
And, meanwhile. Dr. Stahl, sometimes from a
distance, sometimes coming close, kept over him a
kind of half- paternal, half- professional attendance,
the Irishman accepting his ministrations without
resentment, almost with indifference.
' I shall be on deck between two and three in the
morning to see the comet,' the German observed to
him casually towards evening as they met on the
bridge. ' We may meet perhaps '
' All right, doctor ; it's more than possible,'
replied O'Malley, realizing how closely he was
In his mind at the moment another sentence ran,
the thought growing stronger and stronger within
him as the day declined :
'It will come to-night — come as an inner
catastrophe not unlike that of death ! I shall hear
the call — to escape. . . .'
For he knew, as well as if it had been told to
I40 THE CENTAUR xix
him in so many words that the sleep of his two com-
panions all day was in the nature of a preparation.
The fluid projections of themselves were all the time
active elsewhere. Their bodies heavily slumbered ;
their spirits were out and alert. Summoned forth
by those strange and radiant evocative forces that
even in the dullest minds ' Greece ' stirs into life,
they had temporarily escaped. Again he saw those
shapes of cloud and wind moving with swift freedom
over the long, bare hills. Again and again the image
returned. With the night a similar separation of
the personality might come to himself too. Stahl's
warning passed in letters of fire across his inner sight.
With a relief that yet contained uneasiness he watched
his shambling figure disappear down the stairway.
He was alone.
' To everything that a man does he must give his undivided atten-
tion or his Ego. When he has done this, thoughts soon arise in him,
or else a new method of apprehension miraculously appears. . . .
• Very remarkable it is that through this play of his personality man
first becomes aware of his specific freedom, and that it seems to him
as though he awaked out of a deep sleep, as though he were only now
at home in the world, and as if the light of day were breaking now
over his interior life for the first time, . . . The substance of these
impressions which affect us we call Nature, and thus Nature stands
in an immediate relationship to those functions of our bodies which
we call senses. Unknown and mysterious relations of our body allow
us to surmise unknown and mysterious correlations with Nature, and
therefore Nature is that wondrous fellowship into which our bodies
introduce us, and which we learn to know through the mode of its
constitutions and abilities.* — Novalis, Disciples at Sals. Translated
by U. .C. B.
And so, at last, the darkness came, a starry darkness
of soft blue shadows and phosphorescent sea out of
which the hills of the Cyclades rose faint as pictures
of floating smoke a wind might waft away like
flowers to the sky.
The plains of Marathon lay far astern, blushing
faintly with their scarlet tamarisk blossoms. The
strange purple glow of sunset upon Hymettus had
long since faded. A hush grew over the sea, now
a marvellous cobalt blue. The earth, gently sleeping,
manifested dreamily. Into the subconscious state
passed one half of her huge, gentle life.
The Irishman, responding to the eternal spell of
her dream-state, experienced in quite a new way the
142 THE CENTAUR xx
magic of her Night- Mood. He found it more
difficult than ever to realize as separate entities the
little things that moved about through the upper
surface of her darkness. Wings of silver, powerfully
whirring, swept his soul onwards to another place —
And the two worlds intermingled oddly. These
little separate * outer things ' going to and fro so
busily became as symbols more or less vital, more
or less transparent. They varied according to their
simplicity. Some of them were channels that led
directly where he was going ; others, again, had lost
all connection with their vital source and centre of
existence. To the former belonged the sailors,
children, the tired birds that rested on the ship as
they journeyed northwards, swallows, doves, and
little travellers with breasts of spotted yellow that
nested in the rigging ; even, in a measure, the gentle,
brown-eyed priest ; but to the latter, the noisy,
vulgar, beer-drinking tourists, and, especially, the
fur - merchant. . . . Stahl, interpreter and inter-
mediary, hovered between — incarnate compromise.
Escaping from everybody, at length, he made his
way into the bows ; there, covered by the stars, he
waited. And the thing he waited for — he felt it
coming over him with a kind of massive sensation as
little local as heat or cold — was that disentanglement
of a part of his personality from the rest against
which Stahl had warned him. That portion of
his complex personality in which resided desire
and longing, matured during these many years of
poignant nostalgia, was now slowly and deliberately
loosening out from the parent centre. It was the
vehicle of his Urwelt yearnings ; and the Urwelt
was about to draw it forth. The Call was on its way.
XX THE CENTAUR 143
Hereabouts, then, near the Isles of Greece, lay a
channel to the Earth's far youth, a channel for some
reason still unclosed. His companions knew it ; he,
too, had half divined it. The increased psychic
activity of all three as they approached Greece
seemed explained. The sign — would it be through
hearing, sight, or touch ? — would shortly come that
That very afternoon Stahl had said — ' Greece will
betray them,' and he had asked : ' Their true form
and type .'' ' And for answer the old man did an
expressive thing, far more convincing than words :
he bent forwards and downwards. He made as
though to move a moment on all fours.
O'Malley remembered the brief and vital scene
now. The word, however, persistently refused to
come into his mind. Because the word was really
inadequate, describing but partially a form and
outline symbolical of far more, — a measure of
Nature and Deity alike.
And so, as a man dreading the entrance to a
great adventure that he yet desires, the Irishman
waited there alone beneath the cloud of night. . . .
Soft threads of star-gold, trailing the sea, wove with
the darkness a veil that hid from his eyes the world
of crude effects. All memory of the casual realities
of modern life that so distressed his soul, fled far
away. The archetypal world, soul of the Earth,
swam close about him, enormous and utterly simple.
He seemed alone in some hollow of the night which
Time had overlooked, and where the powers of sea
and air held him in the stretch of their gigantic,
changeless hands. In this hollow lay the entrance to
the channel down which he presently might flash
back to that primal Garden of the Earth's first
144 THE CENTAUR xx
beauty — her Golden Age . . . down which, at any
rate, the authoritative Call he awaited was to
come. ... ' Oh ! what a power has white sim-
plicity ! '
Wings from the past, serene and tranquil, bore
him towards this ancient peace where echoes of life's
brazen clash to-day could never enter. Ages before
Greece, of course, it had flourished, yet Greece had
caught some flying remnant ere it left the world of
men, and for a period had striven to renew its life,
though by poetry but half believed. Over the vales
and hills of Hellas this mood had lingered bravely
for a while, then passed away for ever . . . and
those who dreamed of its remembrance remain home-
less and lonely, seeking it ever again in vain, lost
citizens, rejected by the cycles of vainer life and
action that succeeded.
The Spirit of the Earth, yes, whispered in his ears
as he waited covered by the night and stars. She
called him, as though across all the forests on her
breast the long sweet winds went whispering his
name. Lying there upon the coils of thick and
tarry rope, the Urwelt caught him back with her
splendid passion. Currents of Earth life, quasi-deific,
gentle as the hands of little children, tugged softly
at this loosening portion of his Self, urging his very
lips, as it were, once more to the mighty Mother's
breasts. Again he saw those cloud-like shapes career-
ing over long, bare hills . . . and almost knew him-
self among them as they raced with streaming winds
. . . free, ancient comrades among whom he was no
longer alien and outcast, including his two companions
of the steamer. The early memory of the Earth
became his own ; as a part of her, he shared it too.
The Urwelt closed magnificently about him.
XX THE CENTAUR 145
Vast shapes of power and beauty, other than human,
once his comrades thus, but since withdrawn because
denied by a pettier age, moved up, huge and dim,
across the sham barriers of time and space, singing
the great Earth-Song of welcome in his ears. The
whisper grew awfully. . . . The Spirit of the Earth
flew close and called upon him with a shout . . . !
Then, out of this amazing reverie, he woke
abruptly to the consciousness that some one was
approaching him stealthily, yet with speed, through
the darkness. With a start he sat up, peering about
him. There was dew on his clothes and hair. The
stars, he saw, had shifted their positions.
He heard the surge of the water from the vessel's
bows below. The line of the shore lay close on
either side. Overhead he saw the black threads of
rigging, quivering with the movement of the ship ;
the swaying mast-head light ; the dim, round funnels ;
the confused shadows where the boats swung — and
nearer, moving between the ropes and windlasses,
this hurrying figure whose approach had disturbed
him in his gorgeous dream.
And O'Malley divined at once that, though in
one sense a portion of his dream, it belonged out-
v^ardly to the same world as this long dark steamer
that trailed after him across the sea. A piece of his
vision, as it were, had broken off and remained in
the cruder world wherein his body lay upon these
tarry ropes. The boy came up and stood a moment
by his side in silence, then, stooping to the level of
his head, he spoke : —
' Come,' he said in low tones of joy ; * come !
We wait long for you already ! '
The words, like music, floated over the sea, as
O'Malley took the outstretched hand and suffered
146 THE CENTAUR xx
himself to be led quickly towards the lower deck.
He walked at first as in a dream continued after
waking ; more than once it seemed as though they
stepped together from the boards and moved through
space towards the line of peaked hills that fringed the
steamer's course so close. For through the salt night
air ran a perfume that suggested flowers, earth, and
woods, and there seemed no break in the platforms
of darkness that knit sea and shore to the very sub-
stance of the vessel.
The lights in the saloon were out, the smoking-room
empty, the passengers in bed. The ship seemed
entirely deserted. Only, on the bridge, the shadow
of the first officer paced quietly to and fro. Then,
suddenly, as' they approached the stern, O'Malley
discerned another figure, huge and motionless, against
the background of phosphorescent foam ; and at the
first glance it was exactly as though he had detached
from the background of his mind one of those
Flying Outlines upon the hills — and caught it there,
arrested visibly at last.
He moved along, fairly sure of himself, yet with
a tumult of confused sensations, as if consciousness
were transferring itself now more rapidly to that
portion of him which sought to escape.
Leaning forward, in a stooping posture over the
bulwarks, wrapped in the flowing cape he sometimes
wore, the man's back and shoulders married so
intimately with the night that it was hard to determine
the dividing line between the two. So much more
of the deck behind him, and of the sky immediately
beyond his neck, was obliterated than by any possible
human outline. Whether owing to obliquity of
disturbed vision, tricks of shadow, or movement of
the vessel between the stars and foam, the Irishman
saw these singular emanations spread about him into
148 THE CENTAUR xxi
space. He saw them this time directly. And more
than ever before they seemed in some way right and
comely — true. They were in no sense monstrous ;
they reported beauty, though a beauty cloaked in
And, watching him, O'Malley felt that this loosen-
ing portion of himself, as once before in the little
cabin, likewise began to grow and spread. Within
some ancient fold of the Earth's dream-consciousness
they both lay caught. In some mighty Dream of
her planetary Spirit, dim, immense, slow-moving,
they played their parts of wonder. Already they
lay close enough to share the currents of her subcon-
scious activities. And the dream, as she turned in
her vast, spatial sleep, was a dream of a time long
Here, amid the loneliness of deserted deck and
night, this illusion of bulk was more than ever before
outwardly impressive, and as he yielded to the
persuasion of the boy's hand, he was conscious of
a sudden wild inclination to use his own arms and
legs in a way he had never before known or dreamed
of, yet that seemed curiously familiar. The balance
and adjustment of his physical frame sought to shift
and alter ; neck and shoulders, as it were, urged
forward ; there came a singular pricking in the loins,
a rising of the back, a thrusting up and outwards of
the chest. He felt that something grew behind him
with a power that sought to impel or drive him in
advance and out across the world at a terrific gait ;
and the hearing of his ears became of a sudden
intensely acute. While his body moved ordinarily,
he knew that a part of him that was not body moved
— otherwise, that he neither walked, ran, nor stepped
upon two feet, but — galloped. The motion pro-
XXI THE CENTAUR 149
claimed him kin with the flying shapes upon the hills.
At the heart of this portion which sought to detach
itself from his central personality — which, indeed,
seemed already half escaped — he cantered.
The experience lasted but a second — this swift,
free motion of the escaping Double — then passed
away like those flashes of memory that rise and
vanish again before they can be seized for examina-
tion. He shook himself free of the unaccountable
obsession, and with the effort of returning to the
actual present, the passing-outwards was temporarily
checked. And it was then, just as he held himself
in hand again, that glancing sideways, he became
aware that the boy beside him had, like his parent,
also changed — ^grown large and shadowy with a similar
suggestion of another splendid outline. The extension
already half accomplished in himself and fully accom-
plished in the father, was in process of accomplish-
ment in the smaller figure of the son. Clothed in
the emerged true shape of their inner being they
slowly revealed themselves. It was as bewildering as
watching death, and as stern and beautiful.
For the boy, still holding his hand, loped along
beside him as though the projection that emanated
from him, grown almost physical, were somehow diffi-
cult to manage.
In the moment of nearer, smaller consciousness
that yet remained to him, O'Malley recalled the
significant pantomime of Dr. Stahl two days before
in the cabin. It came with a rush of fire. The
warning operated ; his caution instantly worked.
He dropped the hand, let the clinging fingers slip
from his own, overcome by something that appalled.
For this, surely, was the inner catastrophe that he
dreaded, the radical internal dislocation of his per-
I50 THE CENTAUR xxi
sonality that involved — death. The thing that had
happened, or was happening to these other two, was
on the edge of fulfilment in himself — before he was
either ready or had decided to accept it.
At any rate he hesitated ; and the hesitation,
shifting his centre of consciousness back into his
brain, checked and saved him. A confused sense of
forces settling back within himself followed ; a kind
of rush and scuttle of moods and powers : and he
remained temporarily master of his being, recovering
balance and command. Twice already — in that
cabin-scene, as also on the deck when Stahl had
seized him — the moment had come close. Now,
again, had he kept hold of the boy's grasp, that inner
transformation, which should later become exter-
nalized, must have completed itself.
' No, no ! ' he tried to cry aloud, * for I'm not yet
ready ! ' But his voice rose scarcely above a whisper.
The decision of his will, however, had produced
the desired result. The ' illusion,' so strangely born,
had passed, at any rate for the time. He knew once
more the glory of the steadfast stars, realized that he
walked normally upon a steamer's deck, heard with
welcome the surge of the sea below, and felt the
peace of this calm southern night as they coasted
with two hundred sleeping tourists between the
islands and the Grecian mainland. . . . He remem-
bered the fur-merchant, the Armenian priest, the
Canadian drummer. . . .
It seemed his feet half tripped, or at least that he
put out a hand to steady himself against the ship's
long roll, for the pair of them moved up to the big
man's side with a curious, rushing motion that
brought them all together with a mild collision. And
the boy laughed merrily, his laughter like singing
XXI THE CENTAUR 151
half completed. O'Malley remembers the little
detail, because it serves to show that he was yet still
in a state of intensified consciousness, far above the
normal level. It was still * like walking in my sleep
or acting out some splendid dream,' as he put it in
his written version. * Half out of my body, if you
like, though in no sense of the words at all half out
of my mind!'
What followed he relates with passion, half con-
fused. Without speaking the big Russian turned his
head by way of welcome, and O'Malley saw that
the proportions of it were magnificent like a frag-
ment of the night and sky. Though too dark to
read the actual expression in the eyes, he detected
their gleam of joy and splendour. The whole pre-
sentment of the man was impressive beyond any words
that he could find. Massive, yet charged with swift
and alert vitality, he reared there through the night,
his inner self now toweringly manifested. At any
other time, and without the preparation already
undergone, the sight might almost have terrified ;
now it only uplifted. For in similar fashion, though
lesser in degree, because the mould was smaller, and
hesitation checked it, this very transformation had
been going forward within himself.
The three of them leaned there upon the rails,
rails oddly dwindled now to the size of a toy steamer,
while thus the spirit of the dreaming Earth swam
round and through them, awful in power, yet at
the same time gentle, winning, seductive as wild
flowers in the spring. And it was this dehcate, hair-
like touch of delight, magical with a supreme and
utterly simple innocence, that made the grandeur of
XXII THE CENTAUR 153
the whole experience still easily manageable, and terror
in it all unknown.
The Irishman stood on the outside, towards the
vessel's stern, next him the father, beyond, the boy.
They touched. A current like a river in flood swept
through all three.
He, too, was caught within those visible extensions
of their personalities ; all again, caught within the
consciousness of the Earth. Across the sea they
gazed together in silence — waiting.
It was the Oro passage, where the mainland
hills on the west and the Isle of Tenos on the
east draw close together, and the steamer passes for
several miles so near to Greece that the boom of
surf upon the shore is audible. That night, how-
ever, the sea lay too still for surf; it whispered
softly in its sleep ; and in its sleep, too, listened.
They heard its multitudinous rush of voices as the
surge below raced by — a giant frieze in which the
phosphorescence painted dancing forms and palely
luminous faces. Unsubstantial shapes of foam held
hands in continuous array below the waves, lit by
soft-sea-lanterns strung together along the steamer's
Yet it was not these glimmering shapes the three
of them watched, thus intently silent. The lens of
yearning focussed not in sight. Down the great
channel at whose opening they stood, leading straight
to the Earth's old central heart, the message of com-
munion would not be a visual one. The sensitive
fringe of their stretched personalities, contacting
thus actually the consciousness of the planet-soul,
would quiver to a reaction of another kind. This
point of union, already affected, would presently
report itself, unmistakably, yet not to the eyes. The
154 THE CENTAUR xxii
increased acuteness of the Irishman's hearing — a kind
of interior hearing — quickly suppHed the key. It
was that all three — listened.
Some primitive sound of Earth would presently
vibrate through their extended beings with an
authoritative sweet thunder not to be denied. By a
Voice, a Call, the Earth would tell them that she
heard ; that lovingly she was aware of their presence
in her heart. She would call them, with the voice ot
one of their own kind.
How strange it all was ! Enormous in con-
ception, enormous in distance, scope, stretch ! Yet
so tiny, intimate, sweet ! And this vast splendour
was to report itself by one of the insignificant little
channels by which men, locked in cramped physical
bodies, interpret the giant universe — a trivial sense-
impression ! That so terrible a communication could
reach the soul via the quivering of a wee material
nerve was on a par with that other grave splendour
— that God can exist in the heart of a child.
Thus, dimly, yet with an authority that shakes
the soul, may little human hearts divine the Immen-
sities that travel with a thunder of great glory close
about their daily life. Through regions of their
sub-liminal consciousness, which transcends the re-
stricted physical expression of it called personality
as the moisture of the world transcends a drop of
water, deific presences pass grandly to and fro.
For here, to this wild-hearted Irishman with the
forbidden strain of the Urmensch in his blood, came
the sharp and instant revelation that the Conscious-
ness is not contained skin-tight about the body. It
spread enormously about him, remote, extended ; and
in some distant tract of it this strange occurrence
took place. The idea of distance and extension.
XXII THE CENTAUR 155
of course, were merely intellectual concepts, like that
of Time. For what happened, happened near and
close, beside, within his actual physical person.
That physical person, with its brain, however, he
realized, was but a fragment of his total Self. A
broken piece of the occurrence filtered through from
beyond and fell upon the deck at his feet. The rest
he divined, seeing it whole. Only the little bit,
however, has he found the language to describe.
And that for which all three listened was already
on the way. For ever it had been ' happening,' yet
only reached them now because they were ready and
open to it. Events upon the physical plane, he
grasped, represented the last feeble expression of
things that had happened interiorly with a vaster
power long ago — and are ever happening still.
This sound they listened for, coming from the Spirit
of the Earth, lay ever close to men's ears, divinely
sweet and splendid. It seemed born somewhere in
the heart of the blue gloom that draped the hills
of Greece. Thence, across the peaked mountains,
stretched the immense pipe of starry darkness that
carried it towards them as along a channel. Made
possible of approach by the ancient passion of beauty
that Greece once knew, it ran down upon the world
into their hearts, direct from the Being of the Earth.
With a sudden rush, it grew nearer, swelling with
a draught of sound that sucked whole spaces of sky
and sea and stars with it. It emerged. They heard,
Above the pulse and tremble of the steamer's
engines, above the surge and gurgle of the sea, a cry
swept towards them from the shore. Long-drawn,
sweedy-penetrating, yet with some strident accent
of power and command, this voice of Earth rushed
156 THE CENTAUR xxii
upon them over the quiet water — then died away
again among the mountains and the night. Its
passage through the sky was torrentiah The whole
pouring flood of it dipped back with abrupt swift-
ness into silence. The Irishman understood that but
an echo of its main volume had come through.
A deep, convulsive movement ran over the great
body at his side, and at once communicated itself
to the boy beyond. Father and son straightened
up abruptly as though the same force lifted both ;
then stretched down and forwards over the bulwarks.
They seemed to shake themselves free of something.
Neither spoke. Something utterly overwhelming
lay in that moment. For the cry was at once of
enchanting sweetness, yet with a deep and dreadful
authority that overpowered. It invited the very
A moment of silence followed, and the cry was
then repeated, thinner, fainter, already further away.
It seemed withdrawn, sunk more deeply into the
night, higher up, too, floating away northwards into
remoter vales and glens that lay beyond the shore-
line. Though still a single cry, there were distinct
breaks of utterance in it this time, as of words. It
was, of a kind — speech : a Message, a Summons, a
Command that somehow held entreaty at its heart.
And this time the appeal in it was irresist-
ible. Father and son started forwards as though
deliberately pulled ; while from himself shot outwards
that loosening portion of his being that all the even-
ing had sought release. The vehicle of his yearn-
ings, passionately summoned, leaped to the ancient
call of the Earth's eternally young life. This vital
essence of his personality, volatile as air and fierce as
lightning, flashed outwards from its hidden prison
XXII THE CENTAUR 157
where it lay choked and smothered by the weights
and measures of modern life. For the beauty and
splendour of that far voice wrung his very heart and
set it free. He knew a quasi-physical wrench of
detachment. A wild and tameless glory fused the
fastenings of ages.
Only the motionless solidity of the great figure
beside him prevented somehow the complete escape,
and made him understand that the Call just then
was not for all three of them, especially not for
himself. The parent rose beside him, massive and
stable, secure as the hills which were his true home,
and the boy broke suddenly into happy speech which
was wild and singing.
He looked up swiftly into his parent's steady
' Father ! ' he cried in tones that merged half
with the wind, half with the sea, ' it is his voice !
Chiron calls — ! ' His eyes shone like stars, his
young face was alight with joy and passion. — ' Go,
father, jyo», or — '
He stopped an instant, catching the Irishman's
eyes upon his own across the form between them.
' — or you ! ' he added with a laughter of delight ;
^you go ! '
The big figure straightened up, standing back a
pace from the rails. A low sound rolled from him
that was like an echo of thunder among hills. With
slow, laborious distinctness it broke off into fragments
that were words, with great difficulty uttered, but
with a final authority that rendered them command.
' No,' O'Malley heard, ' you — first. And — carry
word — that we — are — on the way.' Staring out
across the sea and sky he boomed it deeply.
' You — first. We — follow — ! ' And the speech
158 THE CENTAUR xxn
seemed to flow from the entire surface of his body
rather than from the lips alone. The sea and air
mothered the syllables. Thus might the Night
herself have spoken.
Chiron ! The word, with its clue of explanation,
flamed about him with a roar. Was this, then, the
type of cosmic life to which his companions, and
himself with them, inwardly approximated . . .?
The same instant, before O'Malley could move
a muscle to prevent, the boy climbed the rails with
an easy, vaulting motion that was swift yet oddly
spread, and dropped straight down into the sea. He
fell ; and as he fell it was as if the passage through
the air drew out a part of him again like smoke.
Whether it was due to the flying cloak, or to some
dim wizardry of the shadows, there grew over him
an instantaneous transformation of outline that was
far more marked than anything before. For as
the steamer drew onwards, and the body thus
passed in its downward flight close beneath
O'Malley's eyes, he saw that the boy was making
the first preparatory motions of swimming, —
movements, however, that were not the horizontal
sweep of a pair of human arms, but rather the
vertical strokes of a swimming animal. He pawed
The surprise of the whole unexpected thing came
upon him with a crash that brought him back
effectually again into himself. That part of him,
already half emerged in similar escape, now flashed
back sheath-like within him. The inner catastrophe
he dreaded while desiring it, had not yet completed
He heard no splash, for the ship was high out ot
the water, and the place where the body met the sea
XXII THE CENTAUR 159
already lay far astern ; but when the momentary
arrest of his faculties had passed and he found his
voice to cry for help, the father turned upon him
like a lion and clapped a great, encompassing hand
upon his mouth.
' Quiet ! ' his deep voice boomed. * It is well —
and he — is — safe.'
And across the huge and simple visage ran an
expression of such supreme happiness, while in his
act and gesture lay such convincing power, that the
Irishman felt himself overborne and forced to
acknowledge another standard of authority that
somehow made the whole thing right. To cry
' man overboard,' to stop the ship, throw life-buoys
and the rest, was not only unnecessary, but foolish.
The boy was safe ; it was well with him ; he was
not ' lost ' . . .
*See,' said the parent's deep voice, breaking in
upon his thoughts as he drew him to one side with
a certain vehemence, ' See ! '
He pointed downwards. And there, between
them, half in the scuppers, against their very feet,
lay the huddled body upon the deck, the arms out-
stretched, the face turned upwards to the stars.
The bewilderment that followed was like the
confusion which exists between two states of con-
sciousness when the mind passes from sleep to
waking, or vice versa. O'Malley lost that power
of attention which enables a man to concentrate on
details sufficiently to recall their exact sequence after-
wards with certainty.
Two things, however, stood out and he tells
them briefly enough : first, that the joy upon the
father's face rendered an offer of sympathy ludicrous ;
i6o THE CENTAUR xxii
secondly, that Dr. Stahl was again upon the scene
with a promptness which proved him to have been
close at hand all the time.
It was between two and three in the morning,
the rest of the passengers asleep still, but Captain
Burgenfelder and the first officer appeared soon after
and an orderly record of the affair was drawn up
formally. The depositions of the father and of
himself were duly taken down in writing, witnessed,
and all the rest.
The scene in the doctor's cabin remains vividly
in his mind : the huge Russian standing by the door
— for he refused a seat — incongruously smiling in
contrast to the general gravity, his mind obviously
brought by an effort of concentration to each ques-
tion ; the others seated round the desk some distance
away, leaving him in a space by himself; the
scratching of the doctor's pointed pen ; the still,
young outline underneath the canvas all through the
long pantomime, lying upon a couch at the back
where the shadows gathered thickly. And then the
gust of fresh wind that came in with a little song as
they opened the door at the end, and saw the crimson
dawn reflected in the dewy, shining boards of the
deck. The father, throwing the Irishman a signi-
ficant and curious glance, was out to join it on the
Syncope, produced by excitement, cause unknown,
was the scientific verdict, and an immediate burial
at sea the parent's wish. As the sun rose over the
highlands of Asia Minor it was carried into effect.
But the father's eyes followed not the drop.
They gazed with rapt, intent expression in another
direction where the shafts of sunrise sped across
the sea towards the glens and dales of distant Pelion.
THE CENTAUR i6i
At the sound of the plunge he did not even turn his
eyes. He pointed, gathering O'Malley somehow
into the gesture, across the iEgean Sea to where
the shores of north-western Arcadia lay below the
horizon, raised his arms with a huge sweep of
welcome to the brightening sky, then turned and
went below without a single word.
For a few minutes, puzzled and perhaps a little
awed, the group of sailors and ship's officers re-
mained standing with bared heads, then disappeared
silently in their turn, leaving the decks to the sunrise
and the wind.
But O'Malley did not immediately return to his
own cabin ; he yielded to Dr. Stahl's persuasion and
dropped into the arm-chair he had already occupied
more than once, watching his companion's prepara-
tions with the lamp and cofFee-pot.
With his eyes, that is, he watched, staring, as men
say, absent-mindedly ; for the fact was, only a little
bit of him hovered there about his weary physical
frame. The rest of him was off somewhere else
across the threshold — subliminal : below, with the
Russian, beyond with the travelling spirit of the
boy; but the major portion, out deep in space,
reclaimed by the Earth.
So, at least, it felt ; for the circulation of blood
in his brain ran low and physical sensation there was
almost none. The driving impulse upon the out-
lying tracts of consciousness usually submerged had
' That time,' he heard Stahl saying in an oddly
distant voice from across the cabin, ' you were nearly
— out '
* You heard ? You saw it all ? ' he murmured
as in half-sleep. For it was an effort to focus his
mind even upon simple words.
The reply he hardly caught, though he felt the
significant stare of the man's eye upon him and
xxirr THE CENTAUR 163
divined the shaking of his head. His life still
pulsed and throbbed far away outside his normal
self. Complete return was difficult. He felt all
over : with the wind and hills and sea, all his little
personal sensations tucked away and absorbed into
Nature. In the Earth he lay, pervading her whole
surface, still sharing her vaster life. With her
he moved, as with a greater, higher, and more
harmonious creation than himself. In large measure
the cosmic instincts still swept these quickened
fringes of his deep subconscious personality.
' You know them now for what they are,' he
heard the doctor saying at the end of much else
he had entirely missed. * The father will be the
next to go, and then — yourself. I warn you before
it is too late. Beware ! And — resist ! '
His thoughts, and with them those subtle energies
of the soul that are the vehicles of thought, followed
where the boy had gone. Deep streams of longing
swept him. The journey of that spirit, so singularly
released, drew half his forces after it. Thither the
bereaved parent and himself were also bound ; and
the lonely incompleteness of his life lay wholly
now explained. That cry within the dawn, though
actually it had been calling always, had at last
reached him ; hitherto he had caught only misin-
terpreted echoes of it. From the narrow body it
had called him forth. Another moment and he
would have known complete emancipation ; and
never could he forget that glorious sensation as the
vital essence tasted half release. Next time the pro-
cess should complete itself, and he would — go !
' Drink this,' he heard abruptly in Stahl's grating
voice, and saw him cross the cabin with a cup of
steaming coffee. ' Concentrate your mind now upon
i64 THE CENTAUR xxiii
the things about you here. Return to the present.
And tell me, too, if you can bring yourself to do so,'
he added, stooping over him with the cup, ' a little
of what you experienced. The return, I know, is
pain. But try — try '
' Like a little bit of death, yes,' murmured the
Irishman. ' I feel caught again and caged small.'
He could have wept. This ugly little life !
' Because you've tasted a moment of genuine
cosmic consciousness and now you feel the limitations
of normal personality,' Stahl added, more soothingly.
He sat down beside him and sipped his own coffee.
' Dispersed about the whole earth I felt, deliciously
extended and alive,' O'Malley whispered with a faint
shiver as he glanced about the little cabin, noticing
the small windows and shut door. ' Upholstery '
oppressed him. 'Now I'm back in prison again.'
There was silence for a moment. Then presently
the doctor spoke, as though he thought aloud,
expecting no reply.
* All great emotions,' he said in lowered tones,
' tap the extensions of the personality we now call
subconscious, and a man in anger, in love, in ecstasy
of any kind is greater than he knows. But to you
has come, perhaps, the greatest form of all — a definite
and instant merging with the being of the Earth
herself. You reached the point where you felt the
spirit of the planet's life. You almost crossed the
threshold — your extension edged into her own.
She bruised you, and you knew-
Bruised " ? ' he asked, startled at the singular
expression into closer hearing.
' We are not " aware " of our interior,' he
answered, smiling a little, ' until something goes
wrong and the attention is focussed. A keen sensa-
XXIII THE CENTAUR 165
tion — pain — and you become aware. Subconscious
processes then become consciously recognized. I
bruise your lung for instance ; you become conscious
of that lung for the first time, and feel it. You
gather it up from the general subconscious back-
ground into acute personal consciousness. Similarly,
a word or mood may sting and stimulate some phase
of your consciousness usually too remote to be
recognized. Last night — regions of your extended
Self, too distant for most men to realize their
existence at all, contacted the consciousness of the
Earth herself. She bruised you, and via that bruise
caught you up into her greater Self. You experienced
a genuine cosmic reaction.'
O'Malley listened, though hardly to the actual
words. Behind the speech, which was in difficult
German for one thing, his mind heard the rushing
past of this man's ideas. They moved together
along the same stream of thought, and the Irishman
knew that what he thus heard was true, at any rate,
for himself. And at the same time he recognized
with admiration the skill with which this scientific
mystic of a Schiffsarzt sought to lead him back
into the safer regions of his normal state. Stahl did
not now oppose or deny. Catching the wave of the
Celt's experience, he let his thought run sympatheti-
cally with it, alongside, as it were, guiding gently
and insinuatingly down to earth again.
And the result justified this cunning wisdom ;
O'Malley returned to the common world by degrees.
For it was enchanting to find his amazing adventure
explained even in this partial, speculative way. Who
else among his acquaintances would have listened at
all, much less admitted its possibility }
' But, why in particular me ? ' he asked. ' Can't
1 66 THE CENTAUR xxiii
everybody know these cosmic reactions you speak of?'
It was his intellect that asked the foolish question.
His whole Self knew the answer beforehand.
' Because/ replied the doctor, tapping his saucer
to emphasize each word, * in some way you have
retained an almost unbelievable simplicity of heart
— an innocence singularly undefiled — a sort of primal,
spontaneous innocence that has kept you clean and
open. I venture even to suggest that shame, as most
men know it, has never come to you at all.'
The words sank down into him. Passing the
intellect that would have criticized, they nested deep
within where the intuition knew them true. Behind
the clumsy language that is, he caught the thought.
' As if I were a saint ! ' he laughed faintly.
Stahl shook his head. ' Rather, because you live
detached,' he replied, ' and have never identified your
Self with the rubbish of life. The channels in you
are still open to these tides of larger existence. I
wish I had your courage.'
« While others .? '
The German hesitated a moment. * Most men,'
he said, choosing his words with evident care, ' are
too grossly organized to be aware that these reactions
of a wider consciousness can be possible at all.
Their minute normal Self they mistake for the whole,
hence denying even the experiences of others. " Our
actual personality may be something considerably
unlike that conception of it which is based on our
present terrestrial consciousness — a form of conscious-
ness suited to, and developed by, our temporary
existence here, but not necessarily more than a fraction
of our total self. It is quite credible that our entire
personality is never terrestrially manifest." ' ^ Obvi-
• Oliver Lodge.
XXIII THE CENTAUR 167
ously he quoted. The Irishman had read the words
somewhere. He came back more and more into
the world — correlated, that is, the subconscious with
' Yet consciousness apart from the brain is incon-
ceivable,' he interposed, more to hear the reply than
to express a conviction.
Whether Stahl divined his intention or not, he
gave no sign.
* " We cannot say with any security that the
stuff called brain is the only conceivable machinery
which mind and consciousness are able to utilize :
though it is true that we know no other." ' ^ The
last phrase he repeated : ' " though it is true that we
know no other." '
O'Malley sank deeper into his chair, making no
reply. His mind clutched at the words ' too grossly
organized,' and his thoughts ran back for a moment
to his daily life in London. He pictured his friends
and acquaintances there ; the men at his club, at
dinner-parties, in the parks, at theatres ; he heard
their talk — shooting — destruction of exquisite life ;
horses, politics, women, and the rest ; yet good,
honest, lovable fellows all. But how did they breathe
in so small a world at all ? Practical-minded
specimens of the greatest civilization ever known !
He recalled the heavy, dazed expression on the
faces of one or two to whom he had sometimes
dared to speak of those wider realms that were so
familiar to himself. . . .
' *' Though it is true that we know no other," '
he heard Stahl repeating slowly as he looked down
into his cup and stirred the dregs.
Then, suddenly, the doctor rose and came over
i68 THE CENTAUR xxiii
to his side. His eyes twinkled, and he rubbed his
hands vigorously together as he spoke. He laughed.
' For instance, I have no longer now the conscious-
ness of that coffee I have just swallowed,' he exclaimed,
' yet, if it disagreed with me, my consciousness of it
' The abnormal states you mean are a symptom
of disorder then ? ' the Irishman asked, following
' At present, yes,' was the reply, ' and will remain
so until their correlation with the smaller conscious
Self is better understood. These belligerent Powers
of the larger Consciousness are apt to overwhelm as
yet. That time, perhaps, is coming. Already a few
here and there have guessed that the states we call
hysteria and insanity, conditions of trance, hypnotism,
and the like, are not too satisfactorily explained.'
He peered down at his companion. ' If I could
study your Self at close quarters for a few years,' he
added significantly, ' and under various conditions, I
might teach the world ! '
' Thank you ! ' cried the Irishman, now wholly
returned into his ordinary self. He could think of
nothing else to say, yet he meant the words and gave
them vital meaning. He moved across to another
chair. Lighting a cigarette, he puffed out clouds of
smoke. He did not desire to be caught again
beneath this man's microscope. And in his mind
he had a sudden picture of the speculative and
experimenting doctor being ' requested to sever his
connection ' with the great Hospital for the sake of
the latter's reputation. But Stahl, in no way offended,
was following his own thoughts aloud, half speaking
*. . . For a being organized as you are, more
XXIII THE CENTAUR 169
active in the outlying tracts of consciousness than in
the centres lying nearer home, — a being like yourself,
I say, might become aware of Other Life and other
personalities even more advanced and highly organized
than that of the Earth.'
A strange excitement came upon him, making his
eyes shine. He walked to and fro, O'Malley
watching him, a touch of alarm mingled with his
' And to think of the great majority that denies
because they are — dead ! ' he cried. * Smothered !
Undivining ! Living in that uninspired fragment
which they deem the whole ! Ah, my friend,' — and
he came abruptly nearer — ' the pathos, the comedy,
the pert self-sufficiency of their dull pride, the crass
stupidity and littleness of their denials, in the eyes
of those like ourselves who have actually known the
passion of the larger experience ! For all this
modern talk about a Subliminal Self is woven round
a profoundly significant truth, a truth newly discovered
and only just beginning to be understood. We are
much greater than we know, and there is a vast sub-
conscious part of us. But, what is more important
still, there is a super-consciousness as well. The
former represents what the race has discarded ; it is
past ; but the latter stands for what it reaches out to in
the future. The perfect man you dream of perhaps is
he who shall eventually combine the two, for there
is, I think, a vast amount the race has discarded
unwisely and prematurely. It is of value and will
have to be recovered. In the subconsciousness it lies
secure and waiting. But it is the super-consciousness
that you should aim for, not the other, for there lie
those greater powers which so mysteriously wait upon
the call of genius, inspiration, hypnotism, and the rest.'
I70 THE CENTAUR xxiii
* One leads, though, to the other,' interrupted
O'Malley quickly. ' It is merely a question of the
swing of the pendulum ? '
' Possibly,' was the laconic reply.
* They join hands, I mean, behind my back, as it
' This stranger, then, may really lead me forward
and not back ? '
' Possibly,' again was all the answer that he got.
For Stahl had stopped short, as though suddenly
aware that he had said too much, betraying himself in
the sudden rush of interest and excitement. The face
for a moment had seemed quite young, but now the
flush faded, and the light died out from his eyes.
O'Malley never understood how the change came
about so quickly, for in a moment, it seemed, the
doctor was calm again, quietly lighting one of his
black cigars over by the desk, peering at him half
quizzingly, half mockingly through the smoke.
' So I urge you again,' he was saying, as though
the rest had been some interlude that the Irishman
had half imagined, ' to proceed with the caution of
this sane majority, the caution that makes for safety.
Your friend, as I have already suggested to you, is a
direct expression of the cosmic life of the earth.
Perhaps, you have guessed by now, the particular
type and form. Do not submit your inner life too
completely to his guidance. Contain your Self — and
resist — while it is yet possible.'
And while he sat on there, sipping hot cofFee, half
listening to the words that warned of danger while
at the same time they cunningly urged him forwards,
it seemed that the dreams of childhood revived in
him with a power that obliterated this present day —
XXIII THE CENTAUR 171
the childhood, however, not of his mere body, but of
his spirit, when the world herself was young. . . .
He, too, had dwelt in Arcady, known the free life
of splendour and simplicity in some Saturnian
Reign ; for now this dream, but half remembered,
half believed, though eternally yearned for — dream
of a Golden Age untouched by Time, still there,
still accessible, still inhabited, was actually coming
It surely was that old Garden of innocence and
joy where the soul, while all unvexed by a sham and
superficial civilization of the mind, might yet know
growth — a realm half divined by saints and poets,
but to the gross majority forgotten or denied.
The Simple Life ! This new interpretation of it
at first overwhelmed. The eyes of his soul turned
wild with glory; the passion that o'er-runs the
world in desolate places was his ; his, too, the
strength of rushing rivers that coursed their parent's
being. He shared the terror of the mountains and
the singing of the sweet Spring rains. The spread
wonder of the woods of the world lay imprisoned
and explained in the daily hurry of his very blood.
He understood, because he felt, the power of the
ocean tides ; and, flitting to and fro through the
tenderer regions of his extended Self, danced the
fragrance of all the wild flowers that ever blew.
That strange allegory of man, the microcosm, and
earth, the macrocosm, became a sudden blazing
reality. The feverish distress, unrest, and vanity of
modern life was due to the distance men had
travelled from the soul of the world, away from
large simplicity into the pettier state they deemed so
Out of the transliminal depths of this newly
172 THE CENTAUR xxiii
awakened Consciousness rose the pelt and thunder of
these magical and enormous cosmic sensations — the
pulse and throb of the planetary life where his little
Self had fringed her own. Those untamed pro-
fundities in himself that walked alone, companionless
among modern men, suffering an eternal nostalgia,
at last knew the approach to satisfaction. For when
the ' inner catastrophe ' completed itself and escape
should come — that transfer of the conscious centre
across the threshold into this vaster region stimulated
by the Earth — all his longings would be housed at
last like homing birds, nested in the gentle places his
yearnings all these years had lovingly built for them
— in a living Nature ! The fever of modern life, the
torture and unrest of a false, external civilization
that trained the brain while it still left wars and
baseness in the heart, would drop from him like the
symptoms of some fierce disease. The god of speed
and mechanism that ruled the world to-day, urging
men at ninety miles an hour to enter a Heaven
where material gain was only a little sublimated and
not utterly denied, would pass for the nightmare
that it really was. In its place the cosmic life of
undifferentiated simplicity, clean and sweet and big,
would hold his soul in the truly everlasting arms.
And that little German doctor, sitting yonder,
enlightened yet afraid, seeking an impossible com-
promise — Stahl could no more stop his going than a
fly could stop the rising of the Atlantic tides.
Out of all this tumult of confused thought and
feeling there rose then the silver face of some
forgotten and passionate loveliness. Apparently it
reached his lips, for he heard his own voice mur-
muring outside him somewhere across the cabin : —
' The gods of Greece — and of the world '
XXIII THE CENTAUR 173
Yet the instant words clothed it, the flashing
glory went. The idea plunged back out of sight —
untranslatable in language. Thrilled and sad, he
lay back in his chair, watching the doctor and trying
to focus his mind upon what he was saying. But
the lost idea still dived and reared within him like a
shining form, yet never showing more than this
radiant point above the surface. The passion and
beauty of it . . . ! He tried no more to tie a label
of modern words about its neck. He let it swim
and dive and leap within him uncaught. Only he
understood better why, close to Greece, his friends
had betrayed their inner selves, and why for the
lesser of the two, whose bodily cage was not yet fully
clamped and barred by physical maturity, escape, or
return rather, had been possible, nay, had been
Stahl, he remembers, had been talking for a long
time. The general sense of what he said reached
him, perhaps, but certainly not many of the words.
The doctor, it was clear, wished to coax from him
the most intimate description possible of his ex-
perience. He put things crudely in order to
challenge criticism, and thus to make his companion's
reason sit in judgment on his heart. If this visionary
Celt would let his intellect pass soberly and dis-
sectingly upon these flaming states of wider conscious-
ness he had touched, the doctor would have data
of real value for his own purposes.
But this discriminating analysis was precisely
what the Irishman found impossible. His soul was
too ' dispersed ' to concentrate upon modern terms
and phrases. These in any case dealt only with
the fragments of Self that manifested through brain
and body. The rest could be felt only, never truly
described. Since the beginning of the world such
transcendental experiences had never been translat-
able in the language of ' common ' sense ; and to-
day, even, when a few daring minds sought a
laborious classification, straining the resources of
psychology, the results were little better than a
rather enticing and suggestive confusion.
In his written account, indeed, he gives no proper
XXIV THE CENTAUR 175
report of what Stahl tried to say. A gaping hiatus
appears in the manuscript, with only asterisks and
numbers that referred to pages of his tumbled note-
books. Following these indications I came across
the skeletons of ideas which perhaps were the raw
material, so to say, of these crude and speculative
statements that the German poured out at him across
that cabin — blocks of exaggeration he flung at him,
in the hope of winning some critical and intelligible
response. Like the structure of some giant fairy-
tale they read — some toppling scaffolding that needed
reduction in scale before it could be focussed for
normal human sight.
' Nature ' was really alive for those who believed
— and worshipped ; for worship was that state of
consciousness which opens the sense and provides
the channel for this singular interior realization.
In very desolate and lonely places, unsmothered and
unstained by men as they exist to-day, such ex-
pressions of the Earth's stupendous, central vitality
were still possible. . . . The ' Russian ' himself was
some such fragment, some such cosmic being,
strayed down among men in a form outwardly human,
and the Irishman had in his own wild, untamed
heart those same very tender and primitive possi-
bilities which enabled him to know and feel it.
In the body, however, he was fenced off — without.
Only by the disentanglement of his primitive self
from the modern development which caged it, could
he recover this strange lost Eden and taste in its
fulness the mother-life of the planetary consciousness
which called him back. This dissociation might be
experienced temporarily as a subliminal adventure ;
or permanently — in death.
Here, it seemed, was a version of the pro-
176 THE CENTAUR xxiv
found mystical idea that a man must lose his
life to find it, and that the personal self must be
merged in a larger one to know peace — the incessant,
burning nostalgia that dwells in the heart of every
religion known to men : escape from the endless
pain of futile personal ambitions and desires for
external things that are unquenchable because never
possible of satisfaction. It had never occurred to
him before in so literal and simple a form. It ex-
plained his sense of kinship with the earth and nature
rather than with men. . . .
There followed, then, another note which the
Irishman had also omitted from his complete story as
I found it — in this MS. that lay among the dust and
dinginess of the Paddington back-room like some
flaming gem in a refuse heap. It was brief but
pregnant — the block of another idea, Fechner's
apparently, hurled at him by the little doctor.
That, just as the body takes up the fact of the
bruised lung into its own general consciousness,
lifting it thereby from the submerged, unrealized
state ; and just as our human consciousness can be
caught up again as a part of the earth's ; so, in turn,
the Planet's own vast personality is included in the
collective consciousness of the entire Universe — all
steps and stages of advance to that final and august
Consciousness of which they are fragments, pro-
jections, manifestations in Time — GOD.
And the immense conception, at any rate, gave him
a curious, flashing clue to that passionate inclusion
which a higher form of consciousness may feel for
the countless lesser manifestations below it ; and so
to that love for humanity as a whole that saviours
feel. . . .
XXIV THE CENTAUR 177
Yet, out of all this deep flood of ideas and
suggestions that somehow poured about him from the
mind of this self-contradictory German, alternately
scientist and mystic, O'Malley emerged with his
own smaller and vivid personal delight that he would
presently himself — escape : escape under the guid-
ance of the big Russian into some remote corner
of his own extended Being, where he would enjoy
a quasi-merging with the Earth-life, and know sub-
jectively at least the fruition of all his yearnings.
The doctor had phrased it once that a part of
him fluid, etheric or astral, malleable by desire,
would escape and attain to this result. But, after
all, the separation of one portion of himself from the
main personality could only mean being conscious
in another part of it — in a division usually submerged.
As Stahl so crudely put it, the Earth had bruised
him. He would know in some little measure the
tides of her own huge life, his longings, loneliness,
and nostalgia explained and satisfied. He would
find that fair old Garden. He might even know
the lesser gods.
That afternoon at Smyrna the matter was oflicially
reported, and so officially done with. It caused
little enough comment on the steamer. The majority
of the passengers had hardly noticed the boy at all,
much less his disappearance ; and while many of
them landed there for Ephesus, still more left the
ship next day at Constantinople.
The big Russian, though he kept mostly to his
own cabin, was closely watched by the ship's officers,
and O'Malley, too, realized that he was under
observation. But nothing happened ; the emptied
steamer pursued her quiet way, and the Earth,
1 78 THE CENTAUR xxiv
unrealized by her teeming freight so busy with their
tiny personal aims, rushed forwards upon her glorious
journey through space.
O'Malley alone realized her presence, aware that
he rushed with her amid a living universe. But he
kept his new sensations to himself. The remainder of
the voyage, indeed, across the Black Sea via Samsoun
and Trebizond, is hazy in his mind so far as
practical details are concerned, for he found himself
in a dreamy state of deep peace and would sometimes
sit for hours in reverie, only reminded of the present
by certain pricks of annoyance from the outer world.
He had returned, of course, to his own state-room,
yet felt in such close sympathy with his companion
that no outward expression by way of confidence or
explanation was necessary. In their Subconscious-
ness they were together and at one.
The pricks of annoyance came, as may be expected,
chiefly from Dr. Stahl, and took the form of
variations of * I told you so.' The man was in a
state of almost anger, caused half by disappoint-
ment, half by unsatisfied curiosity. His cargo of oil
and water would not mix, yet he knew not which to
throw overboard ; here was another instance where
facts refused to tally with the beliefs dictated by sane
reason ; where the dazzling speculations he played
with threatened to win the day and destroy the
compromise his soul loved.
The Irishman, however, did not resent his
curiosity, though he made no attempt to satisfy it.
He allowed him to become authoritative and pro-
fessional, to treat him somewhat as a patient. What
could it matter to him, who in a few hours would
land at Batoum and go off with his guide andi
comrade to some place where ? The thought hej
XXIV THE CENTAUR 179
could never see completed in words, for he only knew
that the fulfilment of the adventure would take place
— somewhere, somehow, somewhen — in that space
within the soul of which external space is but an
image and a figure. What takes place in the mind
and heart are alone the true events ; their outward
expression in the shifting and impermanent shapes of
matter is the least real thing in all the world. For
him the experience would be true, real, authoritative
— fact in the deepest sense of the word. Already he
saw it ' whole.'
Faith asks no travellers' questions — exact height
of mountains, length of rivers, distance from the sea,
precise spelling of names, and so forth. He felt —
the quaint and striking simile is in the written
account — like a man hunting for a pillar-box in a
strange city — absurdly difficult to find, as though
purposely concealed by the authorities amid details
of street and houses to which the eye is unaccustomed,
yet really close at hand all the time. . . .
But at Trebizond, a few hours before Batoum,
Dr. Stahl in his zealous attentions went too far ; for
that evening he gave his 'patient' a sleeping-draught in
his coffee that caused him to lie for twelve hours on
the cabin sofa, and when at length he woke towards
noon, the Customs officers had been aboard since nine
o'clock, and most of the passengers had already landed.
Among them, leaving no message, the big Russian
had also gone ashore. And, though Stahl may have
been actuated by the wisest and kindest motives, he
was not quite prepared for the novel experience with
which it provided him — namely, of hearing an angry
Irishman saying rapidly what he thought of him in a
stream of eloquent language that lasted nearly a
quarter of an hour without a break !
Although Batoum is a small place, and the trains
that leave it during the day are few enough, O'Malley
knew that to search for his friend by the methods
of the ordinary detective were useless. They would
have been also wrong. The man had gone deliber-
ately, without attempting to say good-bye — because,
having come together in the real and inner sense,
real separation was not possible. The vital portion
of their beings, thought, feeling, and desire, were
close and always would be. Their bodies, busy at
different points of the map among the casual realities
of external life, could make no change in that. And
at the right moment they would assuredly meet again
to begin the promised journey.
Thus, at least, in some fashion peculiarly his own,
was the way the Irishman felt ; and this was why,
after the first anger with his German friend, he
resigned himself patiently to the practical business
he had in hand.
The little incident was characteristically revealing,
and shows how firmly rooted in his imaginative
temperament was the belief, the unalterable conviction
rather, that his life operated upon an outer and an
inner plane simultaneously, the one ever reacting
upon the other. It was as if he were aware of two
separate sets of faculties, subtly linked, one carrying
THE CENTAUR i8i
on the affairs of the physical man in the * practical '
world, the other dealing with the spiritual economy
in the subconscious. To attend to the latter alone
was to be a useless dreamer among men, unpractical,
unbalanced ; to neglect it wholly for the former was
to be crassly limited, but half alive ; to combine the
two in effective co-operation was to achieve that high
level of a successful personality, which some perhaps
term genius, some prophet, and others, saint. It
meant, at any rate, to have sources of inspiration
Thus he spent the day completing what was
necessary for his simple outfit, and put up for the
night at one of the little hotels that spread their
tables invitingly upon the pavement, so that dinner
may be enjoyed in full view of one of the most
picturesque streams of traffic it is possible to see.
The sultry, enervating heat of the day had passed
and a cool breeze came shorewards over the Black
Sea. With a box of thin Russian cigarettes before
him he lingered over the golden Kakhetian wine and
watched the crowded street. Knowing enough of
the language to bargain smartly for his room, his
pillows, sheets, and samovar, he yet could scarcely
compass conversation with the strangers about him.
Of Russian proper, besides, he heard little ; there
was a babel of many tongues, Armenian, Turkish,
Georgian, explosive phrases of Swanetian, soft
gliding Persian words, and the sharp or guttural
exclamations of the big-voiced, giant fellows, all
heavily armed, who belonged to the bewildering
tribes that dwelt among the mountains beyond.
Occasionally came a broken bit of French or
German ; but they strayed in, lost and bizarre, as
fragments from some distant or forgotten world.
1 82 THE CENTAUR
Down the pavement, jostling his elbows, strode
the constant, gorgeous procession of curious, wild,
barbaric faces, bearded, with hooked noses, flashing
eyes, bourkas flowing ; cartridge-belts of silver and
ivory gleaming across chests in the glare of the
electric light ; bashliks of white, black, and yellow
wool upon the head, increasing the stature ; evil-
looking Black Sea knives stuck in most belts, rifles
swung across great supple shoulders, long swords
trailing ; Turkish gypsies, dark and furtive-eyed,
walking softly in leather slippers — of endless and
fascinating variety, many coloured and splendid, it
all was. From time to time a droschky with two
horses, or a private carriage with three, rattled noisily
over the cobbles at a reckless pace, stopping with the
abruptness of a practised skater ; and oflicers with
narrow belted waists like those of women, their fuJl-
skirted cloaks reaching half-way down high boots of
shining leather, sprang out to pay the driver and take
a vacant table at his side ; and once or twice a
body of soldiers, several hundred strong, singing the
national songs with a full-throated vigour, hoarse,
wild, somehow half terrible, passed at a swinging
gait away into the darkness at the end of the street,
the roar of their barbaric singing dying away in the
distance by the sea where the boom of waves just
And O'Malley loved it all, and ' thrilled ' as he
watched and listened. From his hidden self within
something passed out and joined it. He felt the
wild pulse of energetic life that drove along
with the tumult of it. The savage, untamed soul
in him leaped as he saw ; the blood ran faster.
Sitting thus upon the bank of the hurrying stream,
he knew himself akin to the main body of the
XXV THE CENTAUR 183
invisible current further out ; it drew him with it,
and he experienced a quickening of all his impulses
towards some wild freedom that was mighty — clean —
Civilian dress was rare, and noticeable when it
came. The shipping agents wore black alpaca coats,
white trousers, and modern hats of straw. A few
ship's officers in blue, with official caps gold-braided,
passed in and out like men without a wedding
garment, as distressingly out of the picture as tourists
in check knickerbockers and nailed boots moving
through some dim cathedral aisle. O'Malley recog-
nized one or two from his own steamer, and turned
his head the other way. It hurt. He caught him-
self thinking, as he saw them, of Stock Exchanges,
twopenny - tubes, Belgravia dinner - parties, private
views, ' small and earlies,' musical comedy, and all
the rest of the dismal and meagre programme.
These harmless little modern uniforms were worse
than ludicrous, for they formed links with the glare
and noise of the civilization he had left behind, the
smeared vulgarity of the big cities where men and
women live in their possessions, wasting life in that
worship of external detail they call * progress ' . . ,
A well-known German voice crashed through his
' Already at the wine 1 These Caucasian vintages
are good ; they really taste of grapes and earth and
flowers. Yes, thanks, I'll join you for a moment if
I may. We only lie three days in port and are glad
to get ashore.'
O'Malley called for a second glass, and passed the
'I prefer my black cigars, thank you,' was the
reply, lighting one. *You push on to-morrow, I
1 84 THE CENTAUR xxv
suppose ? Kars, Tiflis, Erzerum, or somewhere a
little wilder in the mountains, eh ? '
' Towards the mountains, yes,' the Irishman said.
Dr. Stahl was the only person he could possibly have
allowed to sit next him at such a time. He had
quite forgiven him now, and though at first he felt
no positive welcome, the strange link between the
two men quickly asserted itself and welded them
together in that odd harmony they knew in spite
of all differences. They could be silent together,
too, without distress or awkwardness, sure test
that at least some portion of their personalities
And for a long time they remained silent, watch-
ing the surge and movement of the old, old types
about them. They sipped the yellow wine and
smoked. The stars came out ; the carriages grew
less ; from far away floated a deep sonorous echo
now and then of the soldiers singing by their barracks.
Sometimes a steamer hooted. Cossacks swung by.
Often some wild cry rang out from a side street.
There were heavy, unfamiliar perfumes in the air.
Presently Stahl began talking about the Revolu-
tion of a few years before and the scenes of
violence he had witnessed in these little streets, the
shooting, barricades, bombs thrown into passing
carriages, Cossacks charging down the pavements with
swords drawn, shouting and howling. O'Malley
listened with a part of his mind at any rate. The
rest of him was much further away. . . . He was
up among the mountain fastnesses. Already, it
seemed, he knew the secret places of the mist, the
lair of every running wind. . . .
Two tall mountain tribesmen swaggered past close
to their table ; the thick grey bourkas almost swept
THE CENTAUR 185
their glasses. They walked magnificently with easy,
flowing stride, straight from the hips.
* The earth here,' said O'Malley, taking advantage
of a pause in the other's chatter, ' produces some
splendid types. Look at those two ; they make one
think of trees walking — blown along bodily before a
wind.' He watched them with admiration as they
swung off and disappeared among the crowd.
Dr. Stahl, glancing keenly at him, laughed a little.
* Yes,' he said ; ' brave, generous fellows too as
a rule, who will shoot you for a pistol that excites
their envy, yet give their life to save one of their
savage dogs. They're still — natural^' he added after
a moment's hesitation ; ' still unspoilt. They live
close to Nature with a vengeance. Up among the
Ossetines on the high saddles you'll find true Pagans
who worship trees, sacrifice blood, and offer bread
and salt to the nature-deities.'
'Still V asked O'Malley, sipping his wine.
' Still,' replied Stahl, following his example.
Over the glasses' rims their eyes met. Both
smiled, though neither quite knew why. The Irish-
man, perhaps, was thinking of the little city clerks
he knew at home, pigeon-breasted, pale-faced, under-
sized. One of these big men, so full of rushing,
vigorous life, would eat a dozen at a sitting.
' There's something here the rest of the world has
lost,' he murmured to himself But the doctor heard
' You feel it } ' he asked quickly, his eyes brighten-
ing. ' The awful, primitive beauty — ? '
* I feel — something, certainly,' was the cautious
answer. He could not possibly have said more just
then ; yet it seemed as though he heard far echoes
of that voice that had been first borne to his ears
1 86 THE CENTAUR xxv
across the blue iEgean. In the gorges of these
terrible mountains it surely sounded still. These
men must know it too.
' The spell of this strange land will never leave
you once you've felt it,' pursued the other quietly,
his voice deepening. ' Even in the towns here —
Tiflis, Kutais — I have felt it. Hereabouts is the
cradle of the human race, they say ; and the people
have not changed for thousands of years. Some of
them you'll find ' — he hunted for a word, then said
with a curious, shrugging gesture, ' terrific'
' Ah ' said the Irishman, lighting a fresh
cigarette from the dying stump so clumsily that the
trembling of the hand was noticeable.
' And akin most likely,' said Stahl, thrusting his
face across the table with a whispering tone, * to that
— man — who — tempted you.'
O'Malley did not answer. He drank the liquid
golden sunshine in his glass ; his eyes lifted to the
stars that watched above the sea ; between the surge
of human figures came a little wind from the grim,
mysterious Caucasus beyond. He turned all tender
as a child, receiving as with a shock of sudden
strength and sweetness a thousand intimate messages
from the splendid mood of old Mother-Earth who
here expressed herself in such a potent breed of men
He heard the doctor's voice still speaking, as from
a distance though : —
* For here they all grow with her. They do not
fight her and resist. She pours freely through
them ; there is no opposition. The channels still lie
open ; . . . and they share her life and power.'
'That beauty which the modern world has lost,'
repeated the other to himself, lingering over the
XXV THE CENTAUR 187
words, and wondering why they expressed so little of
what he really meant.
' But which will never — can never come again,'
Stahl completed the sentence. There was a wistful,
genuine sadness in his voice and eyes, and the sym-
pathy touched the inflammable Celt with fire. It
was ever thus with him. The little man opposite,
with the ragged beard, and the bald, domed head
gleaming in the electric light, had laid a card upon
the table, showing a bit of his burning heart. The
generous Irishman responded like a child, laying
himself bare. So hungry was he for comprehension.
' Men have everywhere else clothed her fair body
with their smothering, ugly clothing and their herded
cities,' he burst out, so loud that the Armenian waiter
sidled up, thinking he called for wine. ' But here
she lies naked and unashamed, sweet in divinity made
simple. By Jove ! I tell you, doctor, it burns and
sweeps me with a kind of splendid passion that
drowns my little shame-faced personality of the
twentieth century. I could run out and worship
— fall down and kiss the grass and soil and
sea ! '
He drew back suddenly like a wounded animal ;
his face turned scarlet, as though he knew himself
convicted of an hysterical outburst. Stahl's eyes had
changed even as he spoke the flaming words that
struggled so awkwardly to seize his mood of rapture
— a thought the Earth poured through him for a
moment. The bitter, half-mocking smile lay in
them, and on the lips the cold and critical expression of
the other Stahl, sceptic and science-man. A revulsion
of feeling caught them both. But to O'Malley came
the thought that once again he had been drawn — was
being coaxed for examination beneath the microscope.
1 88 THE CENTAUR xxv
* The material here,' Stahl said presently, with the
calm tones of a dispassionate diagnosis, ' is magnificent
as you say, uncivilized without being merely savage,
untamed, yet far from crude barbarism. When the
progress of the age gets into this land the transforma-
tion will be grand. When Russia lets in culture,
when modern improvements have developed her
resources and trained the wild human forces into
useful channels. . . .'
He went on calmly by the yard, till it was all the
Irishman could do not to dash the wine-glass in his
* Remember my words when you are up in the
lonely mountains,' he concluded at length, smiling
his queer sardonic smile, ' and keep yourself in hand.
Put on the brakes when possible. Your experience
will thus have far more value.'
' And you,' replied O'Malley bluntly, so bluntly it
was almost rudeness, ' go back to Fechner, and try
to save your compromising soul before it is too
' Still following those lights that do mislead the
morn,' Stahl added gently, breaking into English for
a phrase he apparently loved. They laughed and
raised their glasses.
A long pause came which neither cared to break.
The streets were growing empty, the personality of
the mysterious little Black Sea port folding away into
the darkness. The wilder element had withdrawn
behind the shuttered windows. There came a
murmur of the waves, but the soldiers no longer
sang. The droschkys ceased to rattle past. The
night flowed down more thickly from the mountains,
and the air, moist with that malarial miasma which
makes the climate of this reclaimed marsh whereon
XXV THE CENTAUR 189
Batoum is built so unhealthy, closed unpleasantly
about them. The stars died in it.
' Another glass ? ' suggested Stahl. ' A drink to
the gods of the Future, and till we meet again, on
your return journey, eh ,? '
' I'll walk with you to the steamer,' was the reply.
' I never care for much wine. And the gods of the
Future will prefer my usual offering, I think —
The doctor did not ask him to explain. They
walked down the middle of the narrow streets. No
one was about, nor were there lights in many
windows. Once or twice from an upper story came
the faint twanging of a balalaika against the drone of
voices, and occasionally they passed a little garden
where figures outlined themselves among the trees,
with the clink of glasses, laughter of men and girls,
and the glowing tips of cigarettes.
They turned down towards the harbour where the
spars and funnels of the big steamers were just visible
against the sky, and opposite the unshuttered window
of a shop — one of those modern shops that oddly
mar the town with assorted German tinware, Paris
hats, and oleographs indiscriminately mingled — Stahl
stopped a moment and pointed. They moved up
idly and looked in. From the shadows of the other
side, well hidden, an armed patrol eyed them sus-
piciously, though they were not aware of it.
' It was before a window like this,' remarked
Stahl, apparently casually, * that I once in Tiflis over-
heard two mountain Georgians talking together as
they examined a reproduction of a modern picture —
BOcklin's " Centaur." They spoke in half whispers,
but I caught the trend of what they said. You know
the picture, perhaps .? '
I90 THE CENTAUR xxv
* I've seen it somewhere, yes,' was the short reply.
' But what were they saying ? ' He strove to keep
his voice commonplace and casual like his companion's.
' Oh, just discussing it together, but with a curious
stretched interest,' Stahl went on. ' One asked,
" What does it say ? " and pointed to the inscription
underneath. They could not read. For a long time
they stared in silence, their faces grave and half afraid.
" What is it .'' " repeated the first one, and the other, a
much older man, heavily bearded and of giant build,
replied low, '* It's what I told you about " ; there
was awe in his tone and manner ; " they still live in
the big valley of the rhododendrons beyond "
mentioning some lonely uninhabited region towards
Daghestan ; *' they come in the spring, and are very
swift and roaring. . . . You must always hide. To
see them is to die. But they cannot die ; they are of
the mountains. They are older, older than the stones.
And the dogs will warn you, or the horses, or some-
times a great sudden wind, though you must never
shoot." They stood gazing in solemn wonder for
minutes . . . till at last, realizing that their silence
was final, I moved away. There were manifestations
of life in the mountains, you see, that they had seen
and knew about — old forms akin to that picture
The patrol came out of his shadows, and Stahl
quickly drew his companion along the pavement.
* You have your passport with you ? ' he asked,
noticing the man behind them.
' It went to the police this afternoon. I haven't
got it back yet.' O'Mallcy spoke thickly, in a voice
he hardly recognized as his own. How much he
welcomed that casual interruption of the practical
world he could never explain or tell. For the
XXV THE CENTAUR 191
moment he had felt like wax in the other's hands.
He had dreaded searching questions, and felt unspeak-
ably relieved. A minute more and he would have
burst into confession.
* You should never be without it,' the doctor
added. ' The police here are perfect fiends, and can
cause you endless inconvenience.'
O'Malley knew it all, but gladly seized the talk
and spun it out, asking innocent questions while
scarcely listening to the answers. They distanced
the patrol and neared the quays and shipping. In
the darkness of the sky a great line showed where the
spurs of the Lesser Caucasus gloomed huge and
solemn to the East and West. At the gangway of
the steamer they said good-bye. Stahl held the Irish-
man's hand a moment in his own.
' Remember, when you know temptation strong,'
he said gravely, though a smile was in the eyes, ' the
passwords that I now give you : Humanity and
' I'll try.'
They shook hands warmly enough.
' Come home by this steamer if you can,' he called
down from the deck. ' And keep to the middle of
the road on your way back to the hotel. It's safer
in a town like this.' O'Malley divined the twinkle
in his eyes as he said it. ' Forgive my many sins,'
he heard finally, * and when we meet again, tell me
your own. . . .' The darkness took the sentence.
But the word the Irishman took home with him to
the little hotel was the single one — Civilization : and
this, owing to the peculiar significance of intonation
and accent with which this bewildering and self-con-
tradictory being had uttered it.
He walked along the middle of the street as Stahl
had advised. He would have done so in any case,
unconsciously, for he knew these towns quite as well
as the German did. Yet he did not walk alone.
The entire Earth walked with him, and personal
danger was an impossibility. A dozen ruffians
might attack him, but none could 'take' his life.
How simple it all seemed, yet how utterly beyond
the reach of intelligible description to those who
have never felt it — this sudden surge upwards, down-
wards, all around and about of the vaster conscious-
ness amid which the sense of normal individuality
seemed but a tiny focussed point. That loss of
personality he first dreaded as an * inner catastrophe '
appeared to him now for what it actually was —
merely an extinction of some phantasmal illusion of
self into the only true life. Here, upon the fringe
of this wonder-region of the Caucasus, the spirit of
the Earth still manifested as of old, reached out
lovingly to those of her children who were simple
enough to respond, ready to fold them in and heal
them of the modern, racking fevers which must
otherwise destroy them. . . . The entire sky of soft
darkness became a hand that covered him, and
stroked him into peace ; the perfume that wafted
down that narrow street beside him was the single,
XXVI THE CENTAUR 193
enveloping fragrance of the whole wide Earth herself;
he caught the very murmur of her splendid journey
through the stars. The certitude of some state of
boundless being flamed, roaring and immense, about
his soul. . . .
And when he reached his room, a little cell that
shut out light and air, he met that sinister denial of
the simple life which, for him at least, was the true
Dweller on the Threshold. Crashing in to it he
choked, as it were, and could have cried aloud. It
gripped and caught him by the throat — the word
that Stahl — Stahl who understood even while he
warned and mocked and hesitated himself — had flung
so tauntingly upon him from the decks — Civilization.
Upon his table lay by chance — the Armenian
hotel-keeper had evidently unearthed it for his
benefit — a copy of a London halfpenny paper, a
paper that feeds the public with the ugliest details of
all the least important facts of life by the yard,
inventing others when the supply is poor. He read
it over vaguely, with a sense of cold distress that
was half pain, half nausea. Somehow it stirred his
sense of humour ; he returned slowly to his normal,
littler state. But it was not the contrast which made
him smile ; rather was it the chance juxtaposition of
certain of the contents ; for on the page facing the
accounts of railway accidents, of people burned alive,
explosions, giant strikes, crumpled air-men and other
countless horrors which modern inventions off*ered
upon the altar of feverish Progress, he read a com-
placently boastful leader that extolled the conquest
of Nature men had learned hy speed. The ability
to pass from one point to another across the skin of
the globe in the least possible time was sign of the
development of the human soul.
194 THE CENTAUR xxvi
The pompous flatulence of the language touched
bathos. He thought of the thousands who had read
both columns and preened themselves upon that
leader. He thought how they would pride themselves
upon the latest contrivance for speeding their inert
bodies from one point to another * annihilating
distance ' ; upon being able to get from suburbia to
the huge shops that created artificial wants, then filled
them ; from the pokey villas with their wee sham
gardens to the dingy offices ; from dark airless East
End rooms to countless factories that pour out semi-
fraudulent, unnecessary wares upon the world, ex-
plosives and weapons to destroy another nation, or
cheapjack goods to poison their own — all in a few
minutes less than they could do it the week
And then he thought of the leisure of the country
folk and of those who knew how to be content
without external possessions, to watch the sunset and
the dawn with hearts that sought realities ; sharing
the noble slowness of the seasons, the gradual growth
of flowers, trees, and crops, the unhurried dignity of
Nature's grand procession, the repose-in-progress of
The calmness of the unhastening Earth once more
possessed his soul in peace. He hid the paper,
watching the quiet way the night beyond his window
buried it from sight. . . .
And through that open window came the perfume
and the mighty hand of darkness slowly. It seemed
to this imaginative Irishman that he caught a sound
of awful laughter from the mountains and the sea, a
laughter that brought, too, a wave of sighing— of
deep and old-world sighing.
And before he went to sleep he took an antidote
XXVI THE CENTAUR 195
in the form of a page from that book that accom-
panied all his travels, a book which was written
wholly in the open air because its message refused to
come to the heart of the inspired writer within doors,
try as he would, the ' sky especially containing for me
the key, the inspiration '
And the fragment that he read expressed a little
bit of his own thought and feeling. The seer who
wrote it looked ahead, naming it 'After Civilization,'
whereas he looked back. But they saw the same
vision ; the confusion of time was nothing : —
In the first soft winds of spring, while snow yet lay on the
Forth from the city into the great woods wandering,
Into the great silent white woods where they waited in their
beauty and majesty
For man their companion to come :
There, in vision, out of the wreck of cities and civilizations.
Slowly out of the ruins of the past
Out of the litter and muck of a decaying world,
Lo ! even so
I saw a new life arise.
sound of waters, jubilant, pouring, pouring — O hidden song in
the hollows !
Secret of the Earth, swelling, sobbing to divulge itself!
Slowly, building, lifting itself up atom by atom.
Gathering itself round a new centre — or rather round the world-
old centre once more revealed —
1 saw a new life, a new society, arise.
Man I saw arising once more to dwell with Nature ;
(The old old story — the prodigal son returning, so loved.
The long estrangement, the long entanglement in vain things) —
The child returning to its home — companion of the winter
woods once more —
Companion of the stars and waters — hearing their words at first-
hand (more than all science ever taught) —
The near contact, the dear dear mother so close — the twilight
sky and the young tree-tops against it ;
196 THE CENTAUR xxvi
The few needs, the exhilarated radiant life — the food and
population question giving no more trouble ;
No hurry more, no striving one to over-ride the other :
. . . man the companion of Nature.
Civilization behind him now — the wonderful stretch of the past ;
Continents, empires, religions, wars, migrations — all gathered up
in him ;
The immense knowledge, the vast winged powers — to use or
not to use — . . .
And as he fell asleep at length it seemed there
came a sound of hushed huge trampling underneath
his window, and that when he rose to listen, his big
friend from the steamer led him forth into the
darkness, that those shapes of Cloud and Wind he now
so often saw, companioned them across the heights of
the night towards some place in the distant mountains
where light and flowers were, and all his dream of
years most exquisitely fulfilled. . . .
He slept. And through his sleep there dropped
the words of that old tribesman from the wilderness :
* They come in the spring . . . and are very swift
and roaring. They are older, older than the stones.
They cannot die . . . they are of the mountains,
and you must hide.'
But the dream-consciousness knows no hiding ;
and though memory failed to report with detail in
the morning, O'Malley woke refreshed and blessed,
knowing that companionship awaited him, and that
once he found the courage to escape completely, the
Simple Life of Earth would claim him in full
Stahl with his little modern ' Intellect ' was no
longer there to hinder and prevent.
' Far, very far, steer by my star,
Leaving the loud world's hurry and clamour,
In the mid-sea waits you, maybe.
The Isles of Glamour, where Beauty reigns.
From coasts of commerce and myriad-marted
Towns of traffic by wide seas parted,
Past shoals unmapped and by reefs uncharted.
The single-hearted my isle attains.
' Each soul may find faith to her mind,
Seek you the peace of the groves Elysian,
Or the ivy twme and the wands of vine,
The Dionysian, Orphic rite ?
To share the joy of the Maenad's leaping
In frenzied train thro' the dusk glen sweeping,
The dew-drench'd dance and the star-watch'd sleeping.
Or temple keeping in vestal white ?
' Ye who regret suns that have set,
Lo, each god of the ages golden,
Here is enshrined, ageless and kind,
Unbeholden the dark years through.
Their faithful oracles yet bestowing.
By laurels whisper and clear streams flowing,
Or the leafy stir of the Gods* own going,
In oak trees blowing, may answer you ! '
From Peregrina's Song.
For the next month Terence O'Malley possessed his
soul in patience ; he worked, and the work saved
him. That is to say it enabled him to keep what
men call ' balanced.' Stahl had — whether intention-
ally or not he was never quite certain — raised a
tempest in him. More accurately, perhaps, he had
198 THE CENTAUR xxvii
called it to the top, for it had been raging deep
down ever since he could remember, or had begun
That the earth might be a living, sentient
organism, though too vast to be envisaged as such
by normal human consciousness, had always been a
tenet of his imagination's creed. Now he knew it
true, as a dinner-gong is true. That deep yearnings,
impossible of satisfaction in the external conditions of
ordinary life, could know subjective fulfilment in the
mind, had always been for him poetically true, as for
any other poet : now he realized that it was literally
true for some outlying tract of consciousness usually
inactive, termed by some transliminal. Spiritual
nostalgia provided the channel, and the transfer of
consciousness to this outlying tract, involving, of
course, a trance condition of the usual self, indicated
the way — that was all.
Again, his mystical temperament had always seen
objects as forces which from some invisible centre
push outwards into visible shape — as bodies : bodies
of trees, stones, flowers, men, women, animals ; and
others but partially pushed outwards, still invisible
to limited physical sight at least, either too huge, too
small, or too attenuated for vision. Whereas now,
as a result of Stahl and Fechner combined, it flamed
into him that this was positively true ; more — that
there was a point in his transliminal consciousness
where he might ' contact ' these forces before they
reached their cruder external expression as bodies.
Nature, in this sense, had always been for him alive,
though he had allowed himself the term by a long
stretch of poetic sympathy ; but now he knew that
it was actually true, because objects, landscapes,
humans, and the rest, were verily aspects of the
XXVII THE CENTAUR 199
collective consciousness of the Earth, moods of her
spirit, phases of her being, expressions of her deep,
pure, passionate ' heart * — projections of herself.
He pondered lingeringly over this. Common
words revealed their open faces to him. He
saw the ideas behind language, saw them naked.
Repetition had robbed them of so much that now
became vital, like Bible phrases that too great
familiarity in childhood kills for all subsequent life
as meaningless. His eyes were opened perhaps.
He took a flower into his mind and thought about
it ; really thought ; meditated lovingly. A flower
was literally projected by the earth so far as its form
was concerned. Its roots gathered soil and earth-
matter, changing them into leaves and blossoms ; its
leaves again, took of the atmosphere, also a part of the
earth. It was projected by the earth, born of her,
fed by her, and at ' death ' returned into her. But
this was its outward and visible form only. The
flower, for his imaginative mind, was a force made
visible as literally as a house was a force the mind of
the architect made visible. In the mind, or con-
sciousness of the Earth this flower first lay latent as
a dream. Perhaps, in her consciousness, it nested as
that which in us corresponds to a little thought. . . .
And from this he leaped, as the way ever was with
him, to bigger * projections ' — trees, atmosphere,
clouds, winds, some visible, some invisible, and so to
a deeper yet simpler comprehension of Fechner's
thundering conception of human beings as pro-
jections. Was he, then, literally, a child of the
Earth, mothered by the whole magnificent planet .? . . .
All the world akin — that seeking for an eternal home
in every human heart explained ? . . . And were
there — had there been rather — these other, vaster
200 THE CENTAUR xxvii
projections Stahl had adumbrated with his sudden
borrowed stretch of vision — forces, thoughts, moods
of her hidden life invisible to sight, yet able to be felt
and known interiorly ?
That ' the gods ' were definitely knowable Powers,
accessible to any genuine worshipper, had ever
haunted his mind, thinly separated only from definite
belief : now he understood that this also had been
true, though only partially divined before. For now
he saw them as the rare expressions of the Earth's
in the morning of her life. That he might ever
come to know them close made him tremble with a
fearful joy, the idea flaming across his being with a
dazzling brilliance that brought him close to that
state of consciousness termed ecstasy. And that
in certain unique beings, outwardly human like his
friend, there might still survive some primitive
expression of the Earth-Soul, lesser than the gods,
and intermediate as it were, became for him now a
fact — wondrous, awe-inspiring, even holy, but still a
fact that he could grasp.
He had found one such ; and Stahl, by warnings
that fought with urging invitation at the same time,
had confirmed it.
It was singular, he reflected, how worship had ever
turned for him a landscape or a scene enchantingly
alive. Worship, he now understood, of course
invited ' the gods,' and was the channel through
which their manifestation became possible to the
soul. All the gods, then, were accessible in this
interior way, but Pan especially — in desolate places
and secret corners of a wood. . . . He remembered
dimly the Greek idea of worship in the Mysteries :
that the worshipper knew actual temporary union
with his deity in ecstasy, and at death went perma-
XXVII THE CENTAUR 201
nently into his sphere of being. He understood
that worship was au fond a desire for loss of personal
life — hence its subtle joy ; and a fear lest it be
actually accomplished — whence its awe and wonder.
Some glorious, winged thing moved now beside
him ; it held him by the hand. The Earth possessed
him; and the whole adventure, so far as he can
make it plain, was an authoritative summons to the
natural. Simple Life.
For the next month, therefore, O'Malley, un-
hurrying, blessed with a deeper sense of happiness
than he had ever known before, dismissed the
' tempest ' from his surface consciousness, and set to
work to gather the picturesque impressions of
strange places and strange peoples that the public
liked to read about in occasional letters of travel.
And by the time May had passed into June he had
moved up and down the Caucasus, observing, learning,
expanding, and gathering in the process through
every sense — through the very pores of his skin
almost — draughts of a new and abundant life that is
to be had there merely for the asking.
That modification of the personality which comes
even in cities to all but the utterly hidebound
— so that a man in Rome finds himself not quite the
same as he was in London or in Paris a few days
before — went forward in him on a profounder scale
than anything he had known hitherto. Nature fed,
stimulated and called him with a passionate intimacy
that destroyed all sense of loneliness, and with a
vehement directness of attack that simply charged
him to the brim with a new joy of living. His
vitality, powers, even his physical health, stood at
their best and highest. The country laid its spell
202 THE CENTAUR xxvii
upon him, in a word ; and if he expresses it thus
with some intensity it was because life came to him
so. His record is the measure of his vision. Those
who find exaggeration in it merely confess thereby
their own smaller capacity of living.
Here, as he wandered to and fro among these
proud, immense, secluded valleys, through remote
and untamed forests, and by the banks of wild rivers
that shook their flying foam across untrodden banks,
he wandered at the same time deeper and ever
deeper into himself, towards a point where he lost
touch with all that constituted him ' modern,' or held
him captive in the spirit of to-day. Nearer and ever
nearer he moved into some tremendous freedom,
some state of innocence and simplicity that, while
gloriously unrestrained, yet knew no touch of license.
Dreams had whispered of it ; childhood had fringed
its frontiers ; longings had even mapped it faintly to
his mind. But now he breathed its very air and
knew it face to face. The Earth surged wonderfully
With his sleeping-bag upon a small Caucasian
horse, a sack to hold his cooking things, a pistol in
his belt, he wandered thus for days, sleeping beneath
the stars, seeing the sunset and the dawn, drenched
in new strength and wonder all the time. Here he
touched deeper reaches of the Earth that spoke of
old, old things, that yet were still young because they
knew not change. He walked in the morning of the
world, through her primal fire and dew, when all was
a first and giant garden.
The advertised splendours of other lands, even of
India, Egypt, and the East, seemed almost vulgar
beside this country that had somehow held itself aloof,
unstained and clean. The civilization of its little
xxvir THE CENTAUR 203
towns seemed but a coated varnish that an hour's sun
would melt away ; the railway, crawling along the
flanks of the great range, but a ribbon of old iron
pinned on that, with the first shiver of those giant
sides, would split and vanish.
Here, where the Argonauts once landed, the
Golden Fleece still shone o' nights in the depths of
the rustling beech woods ; along the shores of that
old Phasis their figures might still be seen, tall Jason
in the lead, erect and silvery, passing o'er the shining,
flowered fields upon their quest of ancient beauty.
Further north from this sunny Colchian strand rose
the peak of Kasbek, gaunt and desolate pyramid of
iron, ' sloping through five great zones of climate,'
whence the ghost of Prometheus still gazed down from
his * vast frozen precipice ' upon a world his courage
would redeem. For somewhere here was the cradle
of the human race, fair garden of some Edened life
before the ' Fall,' when the Earth sang for joy in
her first, golden youth, and her soul expressed itself
in mighty forms that remain for lesser days but a
faded hierarchy of visioned gods.
A living Earth went with him everywhere, with
love that never breathed alarm. It seemed he felt
her very thoughts within himself — thoughts, however,
that now no longer married with a visible expression
Among these old-world tribes and peoples with
their babble of difficult tongues, wonder and beauty,
terror and worship, still lay too deeply buried to
have as yet externalized themselves in mental forms as
legend, myth, and story. In the blood ran all their
richness undiluted. Life was simple, full charged
with an immense delight. At home little cocksure
writers in little cocksure journals, pertly modern and
204 THE CENTAUR xxvn
enlightened, might dictate how far imaginative vision
and belief could go before they overstepped the
limits of an artificial schedule ; but here ' everything
possible to be believed was still an image of truth,*
and the stream of life flowed deeper than all mere
A little out of sight, but thinly veiled, the powers
that in this haunted corner of the earth, too strangely
neglected, pushed outwards into men and trees, into
mountains, flowers, and the rest, were unenslavcd
and intensely vital. In his blood O'Malley knew the
primal pulses of the world.
It was irresistibly seductive. Whether he slept
with the Aryan Ossetines upon the high ridges of
the central range, or shared the stone huts of the
mountain Jews, unchanged since Bible days, beyond
the Suram heights, there came to all his senses the
message of that Golden Age his longings ever sought
— the rush and murmur of the Urwelt calling.
And so it was, about the first week in June that
lean, bronzed, and in perfect physical condition, this
wandering Irishman found himself in a little
Swanetian hamlet beyond Alighir, preparing with a
Georgian peasant-guide to penetrate yet deeper into
the mountain recesses and feed his heart with what
he found of loneliness and beauty.
This region of Imerethia, bordering on Mingrelia,
is smothered beneath an exuberance of vegetation
almost tropical, blue and golden with enormous
flowers, tangled with wild vines, rich with towering
soft beech woods, and finally, in the upper sections,
ablaze with leagues of huge rhododendron trees in
blossom that give whole mountain-sides the aspect of
a giant garden, flowering amid peaks that even dwarf
XXVII THE CENTAUR 205
the Alps. For here the original garden of the world
survives, run wild with pristine loveliness. The
prodigality of Nature is bewildering, almost troubling.
There are valleys, rarely entered by the foot of man,
where monstrous lilies, topping a man on foot and
even reaching to his shoulder on horseback, have
suggested to botanists in their lavish luxuriance a
survival of the original flora of the world. A
thousand flowers he found whose names he had never
heard of, their hues and forms as strangely lovely as
those of another planet. The grasses alone in scale
and mass were magnificent. While, in and out of all
this splendour, less dense and voluminous only than
the rhododendron forests, ran scattered lines of
blazing yellow — the crowding clusters of azalea bushes
that scented the winds beyond belief.
Beyond this region of extravagance in size and
colour, there ran immense bare open slopes of smooth
turf that led to the foot of the eternal snow-fields,
with, far below, valleys of prodigious scale and steep-
ness that touched somehow with disdain all memory
of other mountain ranges he had ever known.
And here it was this warm June evening — June
1 5th it was — while packing his sack with cheese and
maize-flour in the dirty yard of a so-called 'post-house,'
more hindered than helped by his Georgian guide,
that he realized the approach of a familiar, bearded
figure. The figure emerged. There was a sudden
clutch and lift of the heart . . . then a rush of wild
delight There stood his Russian steamer -friend,
part of the scale and splendour, as though grown out
of the very soil. He occupied in a flash the middle
of the picture. He gave it meaning. He was part
of it, exactly as a tree or big grey boulder were part
'Seasons and times; Life and Fate — all are remarkable, rhythmic,
metric, regular throughout. In all crafts and arts, in all machines,
in organic bodies, in our daily occupations, everywhere there is
rhythm, metre, accent, melody. All that we do with a certain skill
unnoticed, we do rhythmically. There is rhythm everywhere ; it
insinuates itself everywhere. All mechanism is metric, rhythmic.
There must be more in it than this. Is it merely the influence of
inertia ?' — NovALis. Translated by U. C. B.
Notwithstanding the extent and loneliness of this
wild country, coincidence seemed in no way stretched
by the abrupt appearance ; for in a sense it was not
wholly unexpected. There had been certain indica-
tions that the meeting again of these two was
imminent. The Irishman had never doubted they
would meet. But something more than mere hints
or warnings, it seemed, had prepared him.
The nature of these warnings, however, O'Malley
never fully disclosed. Two of them he told to me
by word of mouth, but there were others he could
not bring himself to speak about at all. Even the
two he mentioned do not appear in his written
account. His hesitation is not easy to explain,
unless it be that language collapsed in the attempt
to describe occurrences so remote from common
experience. This may be so, although he grappled
not unsuccessfully with the rest of the amazing
adventure. At any rate I could never coax from
XXVIII THE CENTAUR 207
him more than the confession that there were other
things that had brought him hints. Then came a
laugh, a shrug of the shoulders, an expression of
confused bewilderment in eyes and manner and —
The two he spoke of I report as best I can. On
the roof of that London apartment-house where so
many of our talks took place beneath the stars and
to the tune of bustling modern traffic, he told them
to me. Both were consistent with his theory that
he was becoming daily more active in some out-
lying portion of his personality — knowing experiences
in a region of extended consciousness stimulated
so powerfully by his strange new friend.
Both, moreover, brought him one and the same
conviction that he was no longer — alone. For some
days past he had realized this. More than his
peasant guide accompanied him. He was both com-
panioned and — observed.
* A dozen times,' he said, ' I thought I saw him,
and a dozen times I was mistaken. But my mind
looked for him. I knew that he was somewhere
close.' He compared the feeling to that common
experience of the streets when a friend, not known
to be near, or even expected, comes abruptly into
the thoughts, so that numberless individuals may
trick the sight with his appearance before he himself
comes suddenly down the pavement. His approach
has reached the mind before his mere body turns
the corner. ' Something in me was aware of his
approach,' he added, 'as though his being were
sending out feelers in advance to find me. They
reached me first, I think ' — he hesitated briefly,
hunting for a more accurate term he could not find
— ' in dream.'
2o8 THE CENTAUR xxviii
* You dreamed that he was coming, then ? '
' It came first in dream,' he answered ; * only
when I woke the dream did not fade ; it passed
over into waking consciousness, so that I could
hardly tell where the threshold lay between the two.
And, meanwhile, I was always expecting to see him
— at every turn of the trail almost ; a little higher
up the mountain, behind a rock, or standing beside
a tree, just as in the end I actually did see him.
Long before he emerged in this way, he had been
close about me, guiding, waiting, watching,'
He told it as a true thing he did not quite
expect me to believe. Yet, in a sense, his sense,
I could and did believe it. It was so wholly con-
sistent with the tenor of his adventure and the
condition of abnormal receptivity of mind. For
his stretched consciousness was in a state of white
sensitiveness whereon the tenderest mental force of
another's thought might well record its signature.
Acutely impressionable he was all over. Physical
distance was of as little, or even of less, account to
such forces as it is to electricity.
' But it was more than the Russian who was
close,* he added quietly with one of those sentences
that startled me into keen attention. ' He was
there — with others — of his kind.'
And then, hardly pausing to take breath, he
plunged, as his manner was, full tilt into the details
of this first experience that thrilled my hedging soul
with an astonishing power of conviction. As always
when his heart was in the words, the scenery about
us faded and I lived the adventure with him. The
cowled and hooded chimneys turned to trees, the
stretch of dim star-lit London Park became a deep
Caucasian vale, the thunder of the traffic was the
XXVIII THE CENTAUR 209
roaring of the snow-fed torrents. The very perfume
of strange flowers floated in the air.
They had been in their blankets, he and his
peasant guide, for hours, and a moon approaching
the full still concealed all signs of dawn, when he
woke out of deep sleep with the odd sensation that
it was only a part of him that woke. One portion
of him was in the body, while another portion was
elsewhere, manifesting with ease and freedom in some
state or region whither he had travelled in his sleep
— where, moreover, he had not been alone.
And close about him in the trees was — movement.
Yes ! Through and between the scattered trunks
he saw it still.
With eyes a little dazed, the active portion of
his brain perceived this processing movement passing
to and fro across the glades of moonlight beneath the
steady trees. For there was no wind. The shadows
of the branches did not stir. He saw swift running
shapes, vigorous yet silent, hurrying across the net-
work of splashed silver and pools of black in some
kind of organized movement that was circular and
seemed not due to chance. Arranged it seemed and
ordered ; like the regulated revolutions of a set and
Perhaps twenty feet from where he lay was the
outer fringe of what he discerned to be this fragment
of some grand gambolling dance or frolic ; yet
discerned but dimly, for the darkness combined with
his uncertain vision to obscure it.
And the shapes, as they sped across the silvery
patchwork of the moon, seemed curiously familiar.
Beyond question he recognized and knew them.
For they were akin to those shadowy emanations
seen weeks ago upon the steamer's after-deck, to
2IO THE CENTAUR xxviii
that * messenger ' who climbed from out the sea and
sky, and to that form the spirit of the boy assumed,
set free in death. They were the flying outHnes
of Wind and Cloud he had so often glimpsed in
vision, racing over the long, bare, open hills — at
last come near.
In the moment of first waking, when he saw
them clearest, he declares with emphasis that he knew
the father and the boy were among them. Not so
much that he saw them actually for recognition,
but rather that he felt their rushing presences ; for
the first sensation on opening his eyes was the con-
viction that both had passed him close, had almost
touched and called him. Afterwards he searched in
vain among the flying forms that swept in the swift
succession of their leaping dance across the silvery
pathways. While varying in size all were so similar.
His description of them is confused a little, for
he admits that he could never properly focus them
in steady sight. They slipped with a melting swift-
ness under the eye ; the moment one seemed caught
in vision it passed on further and the next was in
its place. It was like following a running wave-
form on the sea. He says, moreover, that while
erect and splendid, their backs and shoulders seemed
prolonged in hugeness as though they often crouched
to spring ; they seemed to paw the air ; and that
a faint delicious sound to which they kept obedient
time and rhythm, held that same sweetness which
had issued from the hills of Greece, blown down
now among the trees from very far away. And
when he says ' blown down among the trees,' he
qualifies this phrase as well, because at the same
time it came to him that the sound also rose up
from underneath the earth, as if the very surface
XXVIII THE CENTAUR 211
of the ground ran shaking with a soft vibration of
its own. Some marvellous dream it might have been
in which the forms, the movement, and the sound
were all thrown up and outwards from the quivering
surface of the Earth itself.
Yet, almost simultaneously with the first instant
of waking, the body issued its call of warning.
For, while he gazed, and before time for the least
reflection came, the Irishman experienced this dis-
locating conviction that he himself was taking part
in the whirling gambol even while he lay and watched
it, and that in this way the sense of division in his
personality was explained. The fragment of himself
within the brain watched some other more vital
fragment — some projection of his consciousness
detached and separate — playing yonder with its kind
beneath the moon.
This sense of a divided self was not new to him,
but never before had he known it so distinct and
overwhelming. The definiteness of the division, as
well as the importance and vitality of the separated
portion, were arrestingly novel. It felt as though he
were completely out, or to such a degree, at least,
that the fraction left behind with the brain was at
first only just sufficient for him to recognize his
body at all.
Yonder with these others he felt the wind of
movement pass along his back, he saw the trees slip
by, and knew the very contact of the ground between
the leaps. His movements were natural and easy,
light as air and fast as wind ; they seemed automatic,
impelled by something mighty that directed and
contained them. He knew, too, the sensation that
others pressed behind him and passed before, slipped
in and out, and that through the whole wild urgency
212 THE CENTAUR xxviii
of it he yet could never make an error. More — he
knew that these shifting forms had been close and
dancing about him for a time not measurable merely
by the hours of a single night, that in a sense they
were always there though he had but just discovered
them. His earlier glimpses had been a very partial
divination of a truth, immense and beautiful, that
now dawned quite gorgeously upon him all complete.
The whole world danced. The Universe was
rhythmical as well as metrical.
For this amazing splendour showed itself in a
flash-like revelation to the freed portion of his con-
sciousness, and he knew it irresistibly because he
himself shared it. Here was an infinite joy, naked
and unashamed, born of the mighty Mother's heart
and life, a joy which, in its feebler, lesser manifesta-
tions, trickles down into human conditions, though
still spontaneously even then, so pure its primal
urgency as — dancing.
The entire experience, the entire revelation, he
thinks, can have occupied but a fraction of a second,
but it seemed to smite the whole of his being at once
with the conviction of a supreme authority. And
close behind it came, too, that other sister expression
of a spontaneous and natural expression, equally
rhythmical — the impulse to sing. He could have
sung aloud. For this puissant and mysterious
rhythm to which all moved was greater than any
little measure of their own. Surging through them,
it came from outside and beyond, infinitely greater
than themselves, springing from something of which
they were, nevertheless, a living portion. From the
body of the Earth it came direct — it was in fact a
manifestation of her own vibrating life. The
currents of the Earth pulsed through them.
XXVIII THE CENTAUR 213
* And then,' he says, ' I caught this flaming
thought of wonder, though so much of it faded
instantly upon my full awakening that I can only
give you the merest suggestion of what it was.'
He stood up beside me as he said it, spreading
his arms, as so often when he was excited, to the sky.
I caught the glow of his eyes, and in his voice was
passion. He spoke unquestionably of something he
had intimately known, not as men speak of even the
vividest dreams, but of realities that have burned the
heart and left their trails of glory.
'Science has guessed some inkling of the truth,'
he cried, 'when it declares that the ultimate molecules
of matter are in constant vibratory movement one
about another, even upon the point of a needle.
But I saw — knew, rather, as if I had always known
it, sweet as summer rain, and close in me as love —
that the whole Earth with all her myriad expressions
of life moved to this primal rhythm as of some divine
' Dancing ! ' I asked, puzzled.
' Rhythmical movement call it then,' he replied.
' To share the life of the Earth is to dance and sing
in a huge abundant joy ! And the nearer to her
great heart, the more natural and spontaneous the
impulse — the instinctive dancing of primitive races,
of savages and children, still artless and untamed ;
the gambolling of animals, of rabbits in the meadows
and of deer unwatched in forest clearings — you know
naturahsts have sometimes seen it ; of birds in the air
— rooks, gulls, and swallows ; of the life within the
sea ; even of gnats in the haze of summer afternoons.
All life simple, enough to touch and share the
enormous happiness of her deep, streaming, personal
Being, dances instinctively for very joy — obedient to
214 THE CENTAUR xxvni
a greater measure than they know. . . . The natural
movement of the great Earth -Soul is rhythmical.
The very winds, the swaying of trees and flowers
and grasses, the movement of the sea, of water run-
ning through the fields with silver feet, of the clouds
and edges of the mist, even the trembling of the
earthquakes, — all, all respond in sympathetic motions
to this huge vibratory movement of her great central
pulse. Ay, and the mountains too, though so vastly
scaled their measure that perhaps we only know the
pauses in between, and think them motionless. . . .
The mountains rise and fall and change ; our very
breathing, first sign of stirring life, even the circula-
tion of our blood, bring testimony ; our speech as
well — inspired words are ever rhythmical, language
that pours into the poet's mind from something
greater than himself. And not unwisely, but in
obedience to a deep instinctive knowledge was
dancing once — in earlier, simpler days — a form of
worship. You know, at least, how rhythm in music
and ceremonial uplifts and cleans and simplifies the
heart towards the greater life. . . . You know,
perhaps, the Dance of Jesus. . . .'
The words poured from him with passion, yet
always uttered gently with a smile of joy upon the
face. I saw his figure standing over me, outlined
against the starry sky ; and, deeply stirred, I listened
with delight and wonder. Rhythm surely lies behind
all expression of life. He was on the heels of some
simple, dazzling verity though he phrased it wildly.
But not a tenth part of all he said could I recapture
afterwards for writing down. The steady, gentle
swaying of his body I remember clearly, and that
somewhere or other in the stream of language, he
made apt reference to the rhythmical swaying of
XXVIII THE CENTAUR 215
those who speak in trance, or know some strange,
possessing gust of inspiration.
The first and natural expression of the Earth's
vitality lies in a dancing movement of purest joy and
happiness — that for me is the gist of what remains.
Those near enough to Nature feel it. I myself
remembered days in spring . . . my thoughts, borne
upon some sweet emotion, travelled far. . . .
* And not of the Earth alone,' he interrupted my
dreaming in a voice like singing, ' but of the entire
Universe. The spheres and constellations weave
across the fields of ether the immense old rhythm of
their divine, eternal dance . . . ! '
Then, with a disconcerting abruptness, and a
strange little wayward laugh as of apology for having
let himself so freely go, he sat down beside me with
his back against the chimney-stack. He resumed
more quietly the account of this particular adventure
that lay 'twixt dream and waking :
All that he described had happened in a few
seconds. It flashed, complete, authoritative and
vivid, then passed away. He knew again the call
and warning of his body — to return. For this
consciousness of being in two places at once, divided
as it were against himself, brought with it the
necessity for decision. With which portion should
he identify himself .f* By an act of will, it seemed, a
choice was possible.
And with it, then, came the knowledge that to
remain ' out ' was easier than to return. This time,
to come back into himself would be difficult.
The very possibility seemed to provide the
shock of energy necessary for overcoming it ; the
experience alarmed him ; it was like holding an
2i6 THE CENTAUR xxviii
option upon living — like a foretaste of death.
Automatically, as it were, these loosened forces in
him answered to the body's summons. The result
was immediate and singular ; one of these Dancing
Outlines separated itself from the main herd,
approached with a sudden silent rush, enveloped him
for a second of darkness and confusion, losing its
shape completely on the way, and then merged into
his being as smoke slips in and merges with the
structure of a tree.
The projected portion of his personality had
returned. The sense of division was gone. There
remained behind only the little terror of the weak
flesh whose summons had thus brought it back.
The same instant he was fully awake — the night
about him empty of all but the silver dreaming of
the moon among the shadows. Beside him lay the
sleeping figure of his companion, the bashlik of
lamb's wool drawn closely down about the ears
and neck, and the voluminous black bourka shroud-
ing him from feet to shoulders. A little distance
away the horse stood, munching grass. Again he
noted that there was no wind, and the shadows of
the trees lay motionless upon the ground. The air
smelt sweet of forest, soil, and dew.
The experience — it seemed now — belonged to
dreaming rather than to waking consciousness, for
there was nothing about him to confirm it outwardly.
Only the memory remained — that, and a vast, deep-
coursing, subtle happiness. The smaller terror that
he felt was of the flesh alone, for the flesh ever
instinctively fought against such separation. The
happiness, though, contained and overwhelmed the
Yes, only the memory remained, and even
XXVIII THE CENTAUR 217
that fast fading. But the substance of what had
been, passed into his inmost being : the splendour
of that would remain for ever, incorporated with his
life. He had shared in this brief moment of extended
consciousness some measure of the Mother's cosmic
being, simple as sunshine, unrestrained as wind,
complete and satisfying. Its natural expression was
rhythmical, a deep, pure joy that drove outwards
even into little human conditions as dancing and
singing. He had known it, too, with companions of
his kind. . . .
Moreover, though no longer visible or audible,
it still continued somewhere close. He was
blessedly companioned all the time — and watched.
They knew him one of themselves — these brother
expressions of her cosmic life — these JJrwelt beings
that To-day had no external, bodily forms. They
waited, knowing well that he would come. Fulfil-
ment beckoned surely just beyond. . . .
' . . . . And then suddenly, —
While perhaps twice my heart was dutiful
To send my blood upon its little race —
I was exalted above surety,
And out of Time did fall.'
Lascell^s Abercrombie, Poems and Interludes.
This, then, was one of the 'hints' by which
O'Malley knew that he was not alone and that the
mind of his companion was stretched out to find
him. He became aware after it of a distinct
guidance, even of direction as to his route of travel.
The • impulse came,' as one says, to turn northwards,
and he obeyed it without more ado. For this
* dream ' had come to him when camped upon the
slopes of Ararat, further south towards the Turkish
frontier, and though all prepared to climb the
sixteen-thousand foot summit, he changed his plans,
dismissed the local guide, and turned back for Tiflis
and the Central Range. In the wilder, lonelier moun-
tains, he felt strongly, was where he ought to be.
Another man, of course, would have dismissed
the dream or forgotten it while cooking his morning
coffee ; but, rightly or wrongly, this divining Celt
accepted it as real. He held an instinctive belief,
that in dreams of a certain order the forces that
drive behind the soul at a given moment, may
reveal themselves to the subconscious self, becom-
ing authoritative in proportion as they are sanely
encouraged and interpreted. They dramatize them-
XXIX THE CENTAUR 219
selves in scenes that are open to intuitive interpreta-
tion. And O'Malley, it seems, possessed, like the
Hebrew prophets of old, just that measure of
judgment and divination which go to the making of
a true clear-vision.
Packing up kit and dunnage, he crossed the
Georgian Military Route on foot to Vladikavkaz, and
thence with another horse and a Mohammedan
Georgian as guide, Rostom by name, journeyed via
Alighir and Oni up a side valley of unforgettable
splendour towards an Imerethian hamlet where they
meant to lay-in supplies for a prolonged expedition
into the uninhabited wilderness.
And here, the second occurrence he told me of
took place. It was more direct than the first, yet
equally strange ; also it brought a similar authority
— coming first along the deep mysterious underpaths
of sleep — sleep, that short cut into the subconscious.
They were camped among low boxwood trees, a
hot dry night, wind soft and stars very brilliant,
when the Irishman turned in his sleeping-bag and
abruptly woke. This time there was no dream —
only the certainty that something had wakened him
deliberately. He sat up, almost with a cry. It was
exactly as though he heard himself called by name
and recognized the voice that spoke it. He looked
quickly round. Nothing but the crowding army of
the box-trees was visible, some bushy and round,
others straggling in their outline, all whispering
gently together in the night. Beyond ran the
immense slopes, and far overhead he saw the gleam-
ing snow on peaks that brushed the stars.
No one was visible. This time no flying figures
danced beneath the moon. There was, indeed, no
220 THE CENTAUR xxix
moon. Something, however, he knew had come up
close and touched him, calling him from the depths
of a profound and tired slumber. It had withdrawn
again, vanished into the night. The strong certainty
remained, though, that it lingered near about him
still, trying to press forwards and outwards into
some kind of objective visible expression that
included himself. He had responded with an effort
in his sleep, but the effort had been unsuccessful.
He had merely waked . . . and lost it.
The horse, tethered a few feet away, was astir and
troubled, straining at the rope, whinnying faintly,
and Rostom, the Georgian peasant, he saw, was
already up to quiet it. A curious perfume passed
him through the air — once, then vanished ; unforget-
table, however, for he had known it already weeks
ago upon the steamer. And before the gardened
woods about him smothered it with their richer
smells of a million flowers and weeds, he recognized
in it that peculiar pungent whiff of horse that had
reached him from the haunted cabin. This time it
was less fleeting — a fine, clean odour that he liked
even while it strangely troubled him.
Kicking out of his blankets, he joined the man
and helped to straighten out the tangled rope.
Rostom spoke little Russian, and O'Malley's know-
ledge of Georgian lay in a single phrase, ' Look
sharp ! ' but with the aid of French the man had
learned from shooting -parties, he gathered that
some one had approached during the night and
camped, it seemed, not far away above them.
Though unusual enough in so unfrequented a
region, this was not necessarily alarming, and the
first proof O'Malley had that the man experienced
no ordinary physical fear was the fact that he had
THE CENTAUR 221
left both knife and rifle in his blankets. Hitherto,
at the least sign of danger, he changed into a perfect
arsenal ; he invariably slept * in his weapons ' ; but
now, even in the darkness, the other noted that he was
unarmed, and therefore it was no attempt at horse-
stealing or of assault upon themselves he feared.
' Who is it ? What is it ? ' he asked, stumbling
over the tangle of string-like roots that netted the
ground. ' Natives, travellers like ourselves, or —
something else .? ' He spoke very low, as though
aware that what had waked him still hovered close
enough to overhear. ' Why do you fear ? '
And Rostom looked up a moment from stooping
over the rope. He stepped a little nearer, avoiding
the animal's hoofs. In a confused whisper of French
and Russian, making at the same time the protective
signs of his religion, he muttered a sentence of which
the other caught little more than the unassuring word
that something was about them close — something
* mkhant.^ This curious, significant word he used.
The whispered utterance, the manner that went
with it, surely the dark and lonely setting of the
little scene as well, served to convey the full sugges-
tion of the adjective with a force the man himself
could scarcely have intended. Something had passed
by, not so much evil, wicked, or malign as strange
and alien — uncanny. Rostom, a man utterly careless
of physical danger, rising to it, rather, with delight,
was frightened — in his soul.
'What do you mean.?' O'Malley asked louder,
with an air of impatience assumed. The man was
on his knees, but whether praying, or merely
struggling with the rope, was hard to see. ' What
is it you're talking about so foolishly .? ' He spoke
with a confidence he hardly felt himself.
222 THE CENTAUR
And the involved reply, spoken with lips against
the earth, the head but slightly turned as he
knelt, again smothered the words. Only the curious
phrase came to him — * de I'ancien monde — quelque-
The Irishman took him by the shoulders. Not
meaning actually to shake him, he yet must have
used some violence, for the fact was that he did not
like the answers and sought to deny some strong
emotion in himself. The man stood up abruptly
with a kind of sudden spring. The expression of his
face was not easily divined in the darkness, but a gleam
of the eyes was clearly visible. It may have been
anger, it may have been terror ; vivid excitement it
' Something — old as the stones, old as the stones,'
he whispered, thrusting his dark bearded face un-
pleasantly close. ' Such things are in these mountains.
. . . Mais oui ! C'est moi qui vous le dis ! Old
as the stones, I tell you. And sometimes they come
out close — with sudden wind. We know ! '
He stepped back again sharply and dropped upon
his knees, bowing to the ground with flattened palms.
He made a repelling gesture as though it was
O'Malley's presence that brought the experience.
' And to see them is — to die ! ' he heard, muttered
against the ground thickly. ' To see them is to die ! '
The Irishman went back to his sleeping-bag.
Some strange passion of the man was deeply stirred ;
he did not wish to offend his violent beliefs and turn
it against himself in a stupid, scrambling fight. He
lay and waited. He heard the muttering of the deep
voice behind him in the darkness. Presently it ceased.
Rostom came softly back to bed.
' He knows ; he warned me ! ' he whispered, jerk-
XXIX THE CENTAUR 223
ing one hand towards the horse significantly, as they
at length lay again side by side in their blankets
and the stars shone down upon them from a deep
black sky. * But, for the moment, they have passed,
not finding us. No wind has come.'
* Another — horse ? ' asked O'Malley suggestively,
with a sympathy meant to quiet him.
But the peasant shook his head ; and this time it
was not difficult to divine the expression on his face
even in the darkness. At the same moment the
tethered animal again uttered a long whinnying cry,
plaintive, yet of pleasure rather than alarm it seemed,
which instantly brought the man again with a leap
from the blankets to his knees. O'Malley did not
go to help him ; he stuffed the clothes against his
ears and waited ; he did not wish to hear the peasant's
And this pantomime went on at intervals for an
hour or more, when at length the horse grew quiet
and O'Malley snatched moments of unrefreshing
sleep. The night lay thick about them with a
silence like the silence of the sky. The boxwood
bushes ran together into a single sheet of black, the
far peaks faded out of sight, the air grew keen and
sharp towards the dawn on the wave of wind the
sunrise drives before it round the world. But to
and fro across the Irishman's mind as he lay between
sleep and dozing ran the feeling that his friends were
close, and that those dancing forms of cosmic life to
which all three approximated had come near once
more to summon him. He also knew that what
the horse had felt was something far from terror.
The animal instinctively had divined the presence of
something to which it, too, was remotely kin.
Rostom, however, remained keenly on the alert,
224 THE CENTAUR xxix
much of the time apparently praying. Not once did
he touch the weapons that lay ready to hand upon
the folded bourka . . . and when at last the dawn
came, pale and yellow, through the trees, showing
the outlines of the individual box and azalea bushes,
he got up earlier than usual and began to make
the fire for coffee. In the fuller light which soon
poured swiftly over the eastern summits and dropped
gold and silver into the tremendous valley at their
feet, the men made a systematic search of the
immediate surroundings, and then of the clearings
and more open stretches beyond. In silence they
made it. They found, however, no traces of another
camping-party. And it was clear from the way they
went about the search that neither expected to find
anything. The ground was unbroken, the bushes
Yet still, both knew. That ' something ' which
the night had brought and kept concealed, still
hovered close about them.
And it was at this scattered hamlet, consisting of
little more than a farm of sorts and a few shepherds'
huts of stone, where they stopped two hours later
for provisions, that O'Malley looked up thus
suddenly and recognized the figure of his friend.
He stood among the trees a hundred yards away.
At first the other thought he was a tree — his stalwart
form the stem, his hair and beard the branches — so
big and motionless he stood between the other trunks.
O'Malley saw him for a full minute before he under-
stood. The man seemed so absolutely a part of the
landscape, a giant detail in keeping with the rest — a
detail that had suddenly emerged.
The same moment a great draught of wind, rising
XXIX THE CENTAUR 225
from depths of the valley below, swept overhead
vvith a roaring sound, shaking the beech and box
trees and setting all the golden azalea heads in a
sudden agitation. It passed as swiftly as it came.
The peace of the June morning again descended on
It was broken by a wild, half-smothered cry, — a
cry of genuine terror.
For O'Malley had turned to Rostom with some
word that here, in this figure, lay the explanation of
the animal's excitement in the night, when he saw
that the peasant, white as chalk beneath the tangle
of black hair that covered his face, had stopped dead
in his tracks. His mouth was open, his arms up-
raised to shield ; he was staring fixedly in the same
direction as himself. The next instant he was on his
knees, bowing and scraping towards Mecca, groaning,
hiding his eyes with both hands. The sack he held
had toppled over ; the cheese and flour rolled upon
the ground ; and from the horse came that long-
drawn whinnying of the night.
There was a momentary impression — entirely in
the Irishman's mind, of course, — that the whole
landscape veiled a giant, rushing movement that
passed across it like a wave. The surface of the
earth, it seemed, ran softly quivering, as though that
wind had stirred response together with the trembling
of the million leaves . . . before it settled back
again to stillness. It passed in the flash of an eyelid.
The earth lay tranquil in repose.
But, though the suddenness of the stranger's
arrival might conceivably have startled the ignorant
peasant, with nerves already overwrought from the
occurrence of the night, O'Malley was not prepared
for the violence of the man's terror as shown by the
226 THE CENTAUR xxix
immediate sequel. For after several moments' prayer
and prostration, with groans half smothered against
the very ground, he sprang impetuously to his feet
again, turned to his employer with eyes that gleamed
wildly in that face of chalk, cried out — the voice
thick with the confusion of his fear — ' It is the Wind !
They come ; from the mountains they come 1 Older
than the stones they are. Save yourself. . , . Hide
your eyes ... fly ... ! ' — and was gone. Like a
deer he went. He waited neither for food nor pay-
ment, but flung the great black bourka round his
face — and ran.
And to O'Malley, bereft of all power of movement
as he watched in complete bewilderment, one thing
seemed clear : the man went in this extraordinary
fashion because he was afraid of something he had
/(?//, not seen. For as he ran with wild and leaping
strides, he did not run away from the figure. He
took the direction straight towards the spot where
the stranger still stood motionless as a tree. So close
he passed him that he must almost have brushed his
very shoulder. He did not see him.
The last thing the Irishman noted was that in his
violence the man had dropped the yellow bashlik
from his head. O'Malley saw him stoop with a
flying rush to pick it up. He seemed to catch it as
And then the big figure moved. He came slowly
forward from among the trees, his hands outstretched
in greeting, on his great visage a shining smile of
welcome that seemed to share the sunrise. In that
moment for the Irishman all was forgotten as though
unknown, unseen, save the feelings of extraordinary
happiness that filled him to the brim.
'The poets are thus liberating gods. The ancient British bards
had for the title of their order, "Those who are free throughout the
world." They are free, and they make free. An imaginative book
renders us much more service at first, by stimulating us through its
tropes, than afterward, when we arrive at the precise sense of the
author. I think nothing is of any value in books, excepting the
transcendental and extraordinary. If a man is inflamed and carried
away by his thought, to that degree that he forgets the authors and
the public, and heeds only this one dream, which holds him like an
insanity, let me read his paper, and you may have all the arguments
and histories and criticism.' — Emerson.
To criticize, deny, perhaps to sneer, is no very difficult
or uncommon function of the mind, and the story as
I first heard him tell it, lying there in the grass beyond
the Serpentine that summer evening, roused in me,
I must confess, all of these very ordinary faculties.
Yet, as I listened to his voice that mingled with the
rustle of the poplars overhead, and watched his eager
face and gestures, it came to me dimly that a man's
mistakes may be due to his attempting bigger things
than his little critic ever dreamed perhaps. And
gradually I shared the vision that this unrhyming
poet by my side had somehow lived out in action.
Inner experience for him was ever the reality —
not the mere forms or deeds that clothe it in partial
There was no question, of course, that he had
actually met this big, inarticulate Russian on the
228 THE CENTAUR
steamer ; that Stahl's part in the account was un-
varnished ; that the boy had fallen on the deck from
heart disease ; and that, after an interval, chance had
brought O'Malley and the father together again in
this valley of the Central Caucasus, All that was
as literal as the superstitious terror of the Georgian
peasant. Further, that the Russian possessed pre-
cisely those qualities of powerful sympathy with the
other's hidden longings which the subtle-minded Celt
had been so quick to appropriate — this, too, was
literal enough. Here, doubtless, was the springboard
whence he leaped into the stream of this quasi-
spiritual adventure with an eagerness of fine, whole-
hearted belief which must make this dull world a
very wonderful place indeed to those who know it ;
for it is the visioned faculty of correlating the
commonest event with the procession of august Powers
that pass ever to and fro behind life's swaying curtain,
and of divining in the most ordinary of yellow
buttercups the golden fires of a dropped star.
Again, for Terence O'Malley there seemed no
definite line that marked off one state of consciousness
from another, just as there seems no given instant
when a man passes actually from sleep to waking,
fi-om pleasure to pain, from joy to grief. There
is, indeed, no fixed threshold between the states
of normal and abnormal consciousness. In this
stranger he imagined a sense of companionship that
by some magic of alchemy transformed his deep lone-
liness into joy, and satisfied his passionate yearnings
by bringing their subjective fulfilment within range.
To have found acceptance in his sight was thus a
revolutionary fact in his existence. While a part of
my mind may have labelled it all as creative imagina-
tion, another part recognized it as plainly true —
XXX THE CENTAUR 229
because his being lived it out without the least
He, at any rate, was not inventing ; nor ever
knew an instant's doubt. He simply told me what
had happened. The discrepancies — the omissions
in his written account especially — were simply due,
I feel, to the fact that his skill in words was not
equal to the depth and brilliance of the emotions
that he experienced. But the fact remains : he did
experience them. His fairy tale convinced.
His faith had made him whole — one with the
Earth. The sense of disunion between his outer and
his inner self was gone.
And now, as these two began their journey
together into the wilder region of these stupendous
mountains, O'Malley says he realized clearly that the
change he had dreaded as an ' inner catastrophe '
simply would mean the complete and final transfer of
his consciousness from the ' without ' to the ' within.'
It would involve the loss only of what constituted
him a person among the external activities of the
world to-day. He would lose his life to find it. The
deeper self thus quickened by the stranger must
finally assert its authority over the rest. To join
these Urwelt beings and share their eternal life of
beauty close to the Earth herself, he must shift the
centre. Only thus could he enter the state before
the * Fall ' — that ancient Garden of the World-Soul,
walled-in so close behind his daily life — and know
deliverance from the discontent of modern conditions
that so distressed him.
To do this temporarily, perhaps, had long been
possible to him — in dream, in reverie, in those
imaginative trances when he almost seemed to leave
his body altogether ; but to achieve it permanently
230 THE CENTAUR xxx
was something more than any such passing disable-
ment of the normal self. It involved, he now saw
clearly, that which he had already witnessed in the
boy : the final release of his Double in so-called
Thus, as they made their way northwards, nomin-
ally towards the mighty Elbruz and the borders of
Swanetia, the Irishman knew in his heart that they in
reality came nearer to the Garden long desired, and
to those lofty Gates of horn and ivory that hitherto
he had never found — because he feared to let himself
go. Often he had camped beneath the walls, had
smelt the flowers, heard the songs, and even caught
glimpses of the life that moved so gorgeously within.
But the Gates themselves had never shone for him, even
against the sky of dream, because his vision had been
clouded by alarm. They swung, it had seemed to him
before, in only one direction — for those who enter :
he had always hesitated, lost his way, returned. . . .
And many, like him, make the same mistake. Once
in, there need be no return, for in reality the walls
spread outwards and — enclose the entire world.
Civilization and Humanity, the man of smaller
vision had called out to him as passwords to safety.
Simplicity and Love, he now discovered were the truer
clues. His big friend in silence taught him. Now
For in that little hamlet their meeting had taken
place — in silence. No actual speech had passed.
* You go — so .? * the Russian conveyed by a look and
by a movement of his whole figure, indicating the
direction ; and to the Irishman's assenting inclination
of the head he made an answering gesture that merely
signified compliance with a plan already known to
XXX THE CENTAUR 231
both, ' We go, together then.' And, there and
then, they started, side by side.
The suddenness of this concerted departure only
seemed strange afterwards when O'Malley looked
back upon it, for at the time it seemed as inevitable
as being obliged to swim once the dive is taken. He
stood upon a pinnacle whence lesser details were
invisible ; he knew a kind of exaltation — of loftier
vision. Small facts that ordinarily might fill the day
with trouble sank below the horizon then. He did
not even notice that they went without food, horse,
or blankets. It was reckless, unrestrained, and utterly
unhindered, this free setting-forth together. Thus
might he have gone upon a journey with the wind,
the sunshine, or the rain. Departure with a thought,
a dream, a fancy could not have been less unhampered.
The only detail of his outer world that lingered
— and that, already sinking out of sight like a stone
into deep water — was the image of the running peasant.
For a moment he recalled the picture. He saw the
man in the act of stooping after the fallen bashlik.
He saw him seize it, lift it to his head again. But
the picture was small — already very far away. Before
the bashlik actually reached the head, the detail
dipped into mist and vanished. . .
It was spring — and the flutes of Pan played every-
where. The radiance of the world's first morning
shone undimmed. Life flowed and sang and danced,
abundant and untamed. It bathed the mountains
and that sky of stainless blue. It bathed him too.
Dipped, washed, and shining in it, he walked the
Earth as she lay radiant in her early youth. The
crystal presence of her everlastmg Spring flew laugh-
ing through a world of light and flowers — flowers
rhat none could ever pluck to die, light that could
never fade to darkness within walls and roofs.
All day they wound easily, as though on winged
feet, through the steep belt of box and beech woods,
and in sparkling brilliant heat across open spaces
where the azaleas shone ; a cooling wind, fresh as
the dawn, seemed ever to urge them forwards. The
country, for all its huge scale and wildness, was park-
like ; the giant, bushy trees wore an air of being
tended by the big winds that ran with rustling music
among their waving foliage. Between the rhododen-
drons were avenues of turf, broad-gladed pathways,
yet older than the moon, from which a thousand
gardeners of wind and dew had gone but a moment
before to care for others further on. Over all
brimmed up some primal, old-world beauty of a
simple life — some immemorial soft glory of the dawn.
XXXI THE CENTAUR 233
Closer and closer, deeper and deeper, ever swifter,
ever more direct, O'Malley passed down towards the
heart of his mother's being. Along the tenderest
pathways of his inner being, so wee, so soft, so
simple that for most men they lie ignored or over-
grown, he slipped with joy a little nearer — one stage
perhaps — towards Reality.
Pan ' blew in power ' across these Caucasian heights
Sweet, sweet, sweet, O Pan !
Piercing sweet by the river !
Blinding sweet, O great god Pan !
The sun on the hill forgot to die,
And the lilies revived, and the dragon-fly
Came back to dream on the river.
In front his big leader, no longer blundering
clumsily as on that toy steamer with the awkward
and lesser motion known to men, pressed forward
with a kind of giant sure supremacy along paths he
knew, or rather over a trackless, pathless world which
the great planet had charted lovingly for his splendid
feet. That wind, blowing from the depths of
valleys left long since behind, accompanied them
wisely. They heard, not the faint horns of Elfland
faintly blowing, but the blasts of the Urwelt
trumpets growing out of the still distance, nearer,
ever nearer. For leagues below the beech woods
poured over the enormous slopes in a sea of soft
green foam, and through the meadow spaces they
saw the sweet nakedness of running water, and
listened to its song. At noon they rested in the
greater heat, sleeping beneath the shadow of big
rocks ; and sometimes travelled late into the night,
when the stars guided them and they knew the
pointing of the winds. The very moonlight then.
234 THE CENTAUR xxxi
that washed this lonely world with silver, sheeting the
heights of snow beyond, was friendly, half divine . . .
and it seemed to O'Malley that while they slept they
were watched and cared for — as though Others who
awaited had already come halfway out to meet them.
And ever, more and more, the passion of his
happiness increased ; he knew himself complete,
fulfilled, made whole. It was as though his Self were
passing outwards into hundreds of thousands, and
becoming countless as the sand. He was everywhere ;
in everything ; shining, singing, dancing. . . . With
the ancient woods he breathed ; slipped with the
streams down the still darkened valleys ; called from
each towering summit to the Sun ; and flew with all
the winds across the immense, untrodden slopes.
About him lay this whole spread being of the flowered
Caucasus, huge and quiet, drinking in the sunshine
at its leisure. But it lay also within himself, for his
expanding consciousness included and contained it.
Through it — this early potent Mood of Nature —
he passed towards the Soul of the Earth within,
even as a child, caught by a mood of winning tender-
ness in its mother, passes closer to the heart that
gave it birth. Some central love enwrapped him.
He knew the surrounding power of everlasting arms.
' Inward, ay, deeper far than love or scorn.
Deeper than bloom of virtue, stain of sin.
Rend thou the veil and pass alone within.
Stand naked there and know thyself forlorn.
Nay ! in what world, then, spirit, wast thou born ?
Or to what World-Soul art thou entered in ?
Feel the Self fade, feel the great life begin.
With Love re-rising in the cosmic morn.
The Inward ardour yearns to the inmost goal ;
The endless goal is one with the endless way ;
From every gulf the tides of Being roll.
From every zenith burns the indwelling day ;
And life in Life has drowned thee and soul in Soul ;
And these are God, and thou thyself art they.*
F. W. H. Myers. From 'A Cosmic Outlook.'
The account of what followed simply swept me into
fairyland, yet a Fairyland that is true because it lives
in every imaginative heart that does not dream itself
shut off from the Universe in some wee compartment
If O'Malley's written account, and especially his
tumbled note-books, left me bewildered and confused,
the fragments that he told me brought this sense of
an immense, sweet picture that actually existed. I
caught small scenes of it, set in some wild high light.
Their very incoherence conveyed the gorgeous
splendour of the whole better than any neat ordered
sequence could possibly have done.
Climax, in the story-book meaning, there was
none. The thing flowed round and round for ever.
236 THE CENTAUR xxxii
A sense of something eternal wrapped me as I listened ;
for his imagination set the whole adventure out of time
and space, and 1 caught myself dreaming too. ' A
thousand years in His sight* — I understood the old
words as refreshingly new — might be a day. Thus
felt that monk, perhaps, for whose heart a hundred
years had passed while he listened to the singing of a
My practical questions — it was only at the
beginning that I was dull enough to ask them — he
did not satisfy, because he could not. There was
never the least suggestion of the artist's mere
' You really felt the Earth about and in you,' I
had asked, ' much as one feels the presence of a friend
and living person ? '
' Drowned in her, yes, as in the thoughts and
atmosphere of some one awfully loved.' His voice
a little trembled as he said it.
* So speech unnecessary .? '
' Impossible — fatal,' was the laconic, comprehensive
reply, ' limiting : destructive even.'
That, at least, I grasped : the pitifulness of words
before that love by which self goes wholly lost in the
being of another, adrift yet cared for, gathered
all wonderfully in.
* And your Russian friend — your leader?' I
His reply was curiously illuminating : —
* Like some great guiding Thought within her
mind — some flaming motif — interpreting her love and
splendour — leading me straight.'
* As you felt at Marseilles, a clue — a vital clue } '
For I remembered the singular phrase he had used in
xxxn THE CENTAUR 237
* Not a bad word,' he laughed ; ' certainly, as far
as it goes, not a wrong one. For he — /'/ — was at
the same time within myself. We merged, as our
life grew and spread. We swept things along with
us from the banks. We were in flood together,' he
cried. ' We drew the landscape with us ! '
The last words baffled me ; I found no immediate
response. He pushed away the plates on the table
before us, where we had been lunching in the back
room of a dingy Soho restaurant. We now had the
place to ourselves. He drew his chair a little nearer.
' Don't ye see — our journey also was within^ he
The pale London sunlight came through the
window across chimneys, dreary roofs, courtyards.
Yet where it touched his face it seemed at once to
shine. His voice was warm and eager. I caught
from him, as it were, both heat and light.
* You moved actually, though, over country — ? '
' While at the same time we moved within, ad-
vanced, sank deeper,' he returned ; * call it what you
will. Our condition moved. There was this cor-
respondence between the two. Over her face we
walked, yet into her as well. We " travelled " with
One greater than ourselves, both caught and merged
in her, in utter sympathy with one another as with
herself . . .'
This stopped me dead. I could not pretend more
than a vague sympathetic understanding with such
descriptions of a mystical experience. Nor, it was
clear, did he expect it of me. Even his own heart
was troubled, and he knew he spoke of things that
only few may deal with sanely, still fewer hear with
But, oh, that little room in Greek Street smelt of
238 THE CENTAUR xxxn
forests, dew, and dawn as he told it, — that dear way-
ward Child of Earth ! For ' his voice fell, like music
that makes giddy the dim brain, faint with intoxica-
tion of keen joy.' I watched those delicate hands
he spread about him through the air ; the tender,
sensitive lips, the light blue eyes that glowed. I
noted the real strength in the face, — a sort of nobility
it was — his shabby suit of grey, his tie never caught
properly in the collar, the frayed cuffs, and the
enormous boots he wore even in London — ' policeman
boots ' as we used to call them with a laugh.
So vivid was the picture that he painted ! Almost,
it seemed, I knew myself the pulse of that eternal
Spring beneath our feet, beating in vain against the
suffocating weight of London's bricks and pavements
laid by civilization — the Earth's delight striving
to push outwards into visible form as flowers. She
flashed some scrap of meaning thus into me, though
blunted on the way, I fear, and crudely paraphrased.
Yes, as he talked across the airless gloom of that
little back room, in some small way I caught the
splendour of his vision. Behind the words, I caught
it here and there. My own wee world extended.
My being stretched to understand him and to net in
fugitive fragments the scenes of wonder that he knew
Perhaps his larger consciousness fringed my own
to ' bruise ' it, as he claimed the Earth had done to
him, so that I glimpsed in tinier measure an experience
that in himself blazed whole and thundering. It
was, I must admit, exalting and invigorating, if a
little breathless ; and the return to streets and
omnibuses painful — a descent to ugliness and dis-
appointment. For things I can hardly understand
now, even in my own descriptions of them, seemed
XXXII THE CENTAUR 239
at the time quite clear — or clear-ish at any rate.
Whereas normally I could never have compassed
them at all.
It taught me : that, at least, I know^. In some
spiritual way I quickened to the view that all great
teaching really comes in some such curious fashion —
via a temporary stretching or extension of the * heart '
to receive it. The little normal self is pushed aside
to make room, even to the point of loss, in order to
contain it. Later, the consciousness contracts again.
But it has expanded — and there has been growth.
Was this, I wondered, perhaps what mystics speak of
when they say the personal life must slip aside, be
trampled on, submerged, before there can be room
for the divine Presences ....''
At any rate, as he talked there over coifee that
grew cold and cigarette smoke that made the air yet
thicker than it naturally was, his words conveyed with
almost grandeur of conviction this reality of a pro-
found inner experience. I shared in some faint way
its truth and beauty, so that when I saw it in his
written form I marvelled to find the thing so thin and
cold and dwindled. The key his personal presence
supplied, of guidance and interpretation, of course
' Why, what is this patient entrance into Nature's deep resources
But the child's most gradual learning to walk upright without bane ?
When we drive out, from the cloud of steam, majestical white horses,
Are we greater than the first men who led black ones by the mane ? '
E. B. Browning.
The * Russian ' led.
O'Malley styled him thus to the end for want of
a larger word, perhaps — a word to phrase the inner
and the outer. Although the mountains were devoid
of trails, he seemed always certain of his way. An
absolute sense of orientation possessed him ; or,
rather, the whole earth became a single pathway. Her
being, in and about their hearts, concealed no secrets ;
he knew the fresh, cool water-springs as surely as the
corners where the wild honey gathered. It seemed
natural that the bees should leave them unmolested,
giving them freely of their store, as that the savage
dogs in the aouls, or villages, they passed so rarely
now, should refrain from attack. Even the peasants
shared with them some common, splendid life.
Occasionally they passed an Ossetine on horseback, a
rifle swung across his saddle, a covering bourka
draping his shoulders and the animal's haunches in a
single form that seemed a very outgrowth of the
mountains. But not even a greeting was exchanged.
They passed in silence ; often very close, as though
they did not see these two on foot. And once or
xxxiii THE CENTAUR 241
twice the horses reared and whinnied, while their
riders made the signs of their religion. . . . Sentries
they seemed. But for the password known to both
they would have stopped the travellers. In these
forsaken fastnesses mere unprotected wandering
means death. Yet to the happy Irishman there
never came a thought of danger or alarm. All was
a portion of himself, and no man can be afraid of his
own hands or feet. Their convoy was immense,
invisible, a guaranteed security of the vast Earth
herself. No little personal injury could pass so huge
defence. Others, armed with a lesser security of
knives and guns and guides, would assuredly have
been turned back, or had they shown resistance,
would never have been heard to tell the tale. Dr.
Stahl and the fur-merchant, for instance
But such bothering little thoughts with their hard
edges no longer touched reality ; they spun away and
found no lodgment ; they were — untrue ; false
items of some lesser world unrealized.
For, in proportion as he fixed his thoughts success-
fully on outward and physical things, the world
wherein he now walked grew dim : he missed the
path, stumbled, saw trees and flowers indistinctly,
failed to hear properly the call of birds and wind,
to feel the touch of sun ; and, most unwelcome of
all, — was aware that his leader left him, dwindling
in size, dropping away somehow among shadows far
behind or far ahead.
The inversion was strangely complete : what men
called solid, real, and permanent he now knew as the
veriest shadows of existence, fleeting, unsatisfactory,
Their dreary make-believe had all his life oppressed
him. He now knew why. Men, driving their
242 THE CENTAUR xxxiii
forces outwards for external possessions had lost the
way so utterly. It truly was amazing. He no
longer quite understood how such feverish strife was
possible to intelligent beings : the fur-merchant, the
tourists, his London friends, the great majority of
men and women he had known, pain in their hearts
and weariness in their eyes, the sad strained faces,
the furious rush to catch a little pleasure they deemed
joy. It seemed like some wild senseless game that
madness plays. He found it difficult to endow
them, one and all, with any sense of life. He saw
them groping in thick darkness, snatching with hands
of shadow at things of even thinner shadow, all
moving in a wild and frantic circle of artificial
desires, while just beyond, absurdly close to many,
blazed this great living sunshine of Reality and
Peace and Beauty. If only they would turn — and
look within — !
In fleeting moments these sordid glimpses of that
dark and shadow- world still afilicted his outer sight
— the nightmare he had left behind. It played like
some gloomy memory through a corner of conscious-
ness not yet wholly disentangled from it. Already
he burned to share his story with the world. . . !
A few he saw who here and there half turned, touched
by a flashing ray — then rushed away into the old
blackness as though frightened, not daring to escape.
False images thrown outward by the intellect pre-
vented. Stahl he saw . . . groping ; a soft light of
yearning in his eyes ... a hand outstretched to
push the shadows from him, yet ever gathering them
instead. . . . Men he saw by the million, youth still in
their hearts, yet slaving in darkened trap-like cages
not merely to earn a competency but to pile more gold
for things not really wanted ; faces of greed round
xxxiii THE CENTAUR 243
gambling-tables ; the pandemonium of Exchanges ;
even fair women, playing Bridge through all a
summer afternoon — the strife and lust and passion
for possessions degrading every heart, choking the
channels of simplicity. . . . Over the cities of the
world he heard the demon Civilization sing its song
of terror and desolation. Its music of destruction
shook the nations. He saw the millions dance.
And mid the bewildering ugly thunder of that sound
few could catch the small sweet voice played by the
Earth upon the little Pipes of Pan . . . the fluting
call of Nature to the Simple Life — which is the Inner.
For now, as he moved closer to the Earth, deeper
ever deeper into the enfolding moods of her vast
collective consciousness, he drew nearer to the Reality
that satisfies. He approached that centre where
outward activity is less, yet energy and vitality far
greater — because it is at rest. Here he met things
halfway, as it were, en route for the outer physical
world where they would appear later as ' events,' but
not yet emerged, still alive and breaking with their
undischarged and natural potencies. Modern life, he
discerned, dealt only with these forces when they had
emerged, masquerading at the outer rim of life as
complete embodiments, whereas actually they are but
partial and symbolical expressions of their eternal
prototypes behind. And men to-day were busy at
this periphery only, touch with the centre lost, madly
consumed with the unimportant details that concealed
the inner glory. It was the spirit of the age to mis-
take the outer shell for the inner reality. He at last
understood the reason of his starved loneliness amid
the stupid uproar of latter-day life, why he distrusted
* Civilization,' and stood apart. His yearnings were
explained. His heart dwelt ever in the Golden Age
244 THE CENTAUR xxxiii
of the Earth's first youth, and at last — he was coming
Like mud settling in dirty water, the casual
realities of that outer life all sank away. He grew
clear within, one with the primitive splendour,
beauty, grace of a fresh world. Over his inner self,
flooding slowly the passages and cellars, those
subterranean ways that honeycomb the dim-lit
foundations of personality, this tide of power rose.
Filling chamber after chamber, melting down walls and
ceiling, eating away divisions softly and irresistibly,
it climbed in silence, merging all moods and disunion
of his separate Selves into the single thing that made
him comprehensible to himself and able to know the
Earth as Mother. He saw himself whole ; he knew
himself divine. A strange tumult as of some
ecstasy of old remembrance invaded him. He
dropped back into a more spacious scale of time,
long long ago when a month might be a moment,
or a thousand years pass round him as a single
day. . . .
The qualities of all the Earth lay too, so easily
contained, within himself. He understood that old
legend by which man the microcosm represents and
sums up Earth, the macrocosm in himself, so that
Nature becomes the symbol and interpreter of his
inner being. The strength and dignity of the trees
he drew into himself; the power of the wind was
his ; with his unwearied feet ran all the sweet and
facile swiftness of the rivulets, and in his thoughts
the graciousness of flowers, the wavy softness of
the grass, the peace of open spaces and the calm
of that vast sky. The murmur of the Urwelt was
in his blood, and in his heart the exaltation of her
golden Mood of Spring.
XXXIII THE CENTAUR 245
How, then, could speech be possible, since both
shared this common life ? The communion with his
friend and leader was too profound and perfect for
any stammering utterance in the broken, partial
symbols known as language. This was done for
them : the singing of the birds, the wind-voices, the
rippling of water, the very humming of the myriad
insects even, and rustling of the grass and leaves,
shaped all they felt in some articulate expression that
was right, complete, and adequate. The passion of
the larks set all the sky to music, and songs far
sweeter than the nightingales' made every dusk
He understood now that laborious utterance of
his friend upon the steamer, and why his difficulty
with words was more than he could overcome.
Like a current in the sea he still preserved
identity, yet knew the freedom of a boundless being.
And meanwhile the tide was ever rising. With
this singular companion he neared that inner realiza-
tion which should reveal them as they were —
Thoughts in the Earth's old Consciousness too
primitive, too far away, too vital and terrific to be
confined in any outward physical expression of the
' civilized ' world to-day. . . . The earth shone,
glittered, sang, holding them close to the rhythm of
her gigantic heart. Her glory was their own. In
the blazing summer of the inner life they floated,
happy, caught away, at peace . . . emanations of her
The valleys far below were filled with mist,
cutting them off literally from the world of men,
but the beauty of the upper mountains grew more
and more bewilderingly enticing. The scale was so
246 THE CENTAUR xxxiii
immense, while the brilhant clearness of the air
brought distance close before the eyes, altered
perspective, and robbed ' remote ' and ' near ' of any
definite meaning. Space fled away. It shifted here
and there at pleasure, according as they felt. It was
within them, not without. They passed, dispersed
and swift about the entire landscape, a very part of
it, diff\ised in terms of light and air and colour,
scattered in radiance, distributed through flowers,
spread through the sky and grass and forests. Space
is a form of thought. But they no longer
* thought ' : they felt . . . . O, that prodigious,
clean, and simple Feeling of the Earth ! Love that
redeems and satisfies ! Power that fills and blesses !
Electric strength that kills the germ of separateness,
making whole ! The medicine of the world !
For days and nights it was thus — or was it years
and minutes } — while they skirted the slopes and
towers of the huge Dykh-Taou, and Elbrous,
supreme and lonely in the heavens, beckoned
solemnly. The snowy Kochtan-Taou rolled past,
yet through^ them ; Kasbek superbly thundered ;
hosts of lesser summits sang in the dawn and
whispered to the stars. And longing sank away —
' My boy, my boy, could you only have been
with me . . . ! ' broke his voice across the splendid
dream, bringing me back to the choking, dingy room
I had forgotten. It was like a cry — a cry of
' I'm with you now,' I murmured, some similar
rising joy half breaking in my breast. ' That's
He sighed in answer. * Something, perhaps.
But I have got it always ; it's all still part of me.
xxxni THE CENTAUR 247
Oh, oh ! that I could give it to the world and lift
the ache of all humanity ... ! ' His voice
trembled. I saw the moisture of immense com-
passion in his eyes. I felt myself swim out into
'Perhaps,' I stammered half beneath my breath,
• perhaps some day you may . . . ! '
He shook his head. His face turned very sad.
' How should they listen, much less under-
stand ? Their energies drive outwards, and separa-
tion is their God. There is no '* money in it " ! . . .
' Oh ! whose heart is not stirred with tumultuous joy when the
intimate Life of Nature enters into his soul with all its plenitude, . . .
when that mighty sentiment for which language has no other name
than Love is diffused in him, like some powerful all-dissolving vapour ;
when he, shivering with sweet terror, sinks into the dusky, enticing
bosom of Nature ; when the meagre personality loses itself in the over-
powering waves of passion, and nothing remains but the focal point
of the incommensurable generative Force, an engulphing vortex in
the ocean ?* — Novalis, Disciples at Sals. Translated by U. C. B.
Early in the afternoon they left the bigger trees
behind, and passed into that more open country
where the shoulders of the mountains were strewn
with rhododendrons. These formed no continuous
forest, but stood about in groups some twenty-five
feet high, their rounded masses lighted on the surface
with fires of mauve and pink and purple. When the
wind stirred them, and the rattling of their stiff leaves
was heard, it seemed as if the skin of the mountains
trembled to shake out coloured flames. The air
turned radiant through a mist of running tints.
Still climbing, they passed along broad glades of
turfy grass between the groups. More rapidly now,
O'Malley says, went forward that inner change of
being which accompanied the progress of their outer
selves. So intimate henceforth was this subtle corre-
spondence that the very landscape took the semblance
of their feelings. They moved as * emanations ' of
xxxiv THE CENTAUR 249
the landscape. Each melted in the other, dividing
lines all vanished.
Their union with the Earth approached this
strange and sweet fulfilment.
And so it was that, though at this height the
vestiges of bird and animal life were wholly gone,
there grew more and more strongly the sense that, in
their further depths and shadows, these ancient bushes
screened Activities even more ancient than themselves.
Life, only concealed because they had not reached its
plane of being, pulsed everywhere about their pathway,
immense in power, moving swiftly, very grand and
very simple, and sometimes surging close, seeking to
draw them in. More than once, as they moved
through glade and clearing, the Irishman knew thrills
of an intoxicating happiness, as this abundant, driving
life brushed past him. It came so close, it glided
before his eyes, yet still was viewless. It strode behind
him and before, peered down through space upon him,
lapped him about with the stir of mighty currents.
The deep suction of its invitation caught his soul,
urging the change within himself more quickly for-
ward. Huge and delightful, he describes it, awful,
yet bringing no alarm.
He was always on the point of seeing. Surely the
next turning would reveal ; beyond the next dense,
tangled group would come — disclosure ; behind that
clustered mass of purple blossoms, shaking there
mysteriously in the wind, some half-veiled countenance
of splendour watched and welcomed ! Before his
face passed swift, deific figures, tall, erect, compelling,
charged with this ancient, golden life that could
never wholly pass away. And only just beyond the
fringe of vision. Vision already strained upon the
edge. His consciousness stretched more and more
250 THE CENTAUR xxxiv
to reach them, while They came crowding near to let
him know inclusion.
These projections of the Earth's old consciousness
moved thick and soft about them, eternal in their
giant beauty. Soon he would know, perhaps, the
very forms in which she had projected them — dear
portions of her streaming life the earliest races half
divined and worshipped, and never quite withdrawn.
Worship could still entice them out. A single wor-
shipper sufficed. For worship meant retreat into the
heart where still they dwelt. And he had loved and
worshipped all his life.
And always with him, now at his side or now a
little in advance, his leader moved in power, with
vigorous, springing gestures like to dancing, singing
that old tuneless song of the wind, happier even
The splendour of the Urwelt closed about them.
They drew nearer to the Gates of that old Garden,
the first Time ever knew, whose frontiers were not
less than the horizons of the entire world. For this
lost Eden of a Golden Age when ' first God dawned on
chaos ' still shone within the soul as in those days of
innocence before the ' Fall,' when men first separated
themselves from their great Mother.
A little before sunset they halted. A hundred yards
above the rhododendron forest, in a clear wide space
of turf that ran for leagues among grey boulders to the
lips of the eternal snow-fields, they waited. Through
a gap of sky, with others but slightly lower than him-
self, the pyramid of Kasbek, grim and towering, stared
down upon them, dreadfully close though really miles
away. At their feet yawned the profound valley they
had climbed. Halfway into it, unable to reach the
XXXIV THE CENTAUR 251
depths, the sun's last rays dropped shafts like rivers
slanting. Already in soft troops the shadows crept
downwards from the eastern-facing summits over-
Out of these very shadows Night drew swiftly
down about the world, building with her masses of
silvery architecture a barrier that rose to heaven.
These two lay down beside it. Beyond it spread
that shining Garden . . . only the shadow-barrier
With the rising of the moon this barrier softened
marvellously, letting the starbeams in. It trembled
like a line of wavering music in the wind of night. It
settled downwards, shaking a little, towards the ground,
while just above them came a curving inwards like a
bay of darkness, with overhead two stately towers,
their outline fringed with stars.
' The Gateway . . . 1 ' whispered something through
It may have been the leader's voice ; it may have
been the Irishman's own leaping thought ; it may
have been merely a murmur from the rhododendron
leaves below. It came sifting gently through the
shadows, O'Malley knew. He followed his leader
higher. Just beneath this semblance of an old-world
portal which Time could neither fashion nor destroy,
they lay upon the earth — and waited. Beside them
shone the world, dressed by the moon in silver.
The wind stood still to watch. The peak of Kasbek
from his cloudy distance listened too.
For, floating upwards across the spaces came a
sound of simple, old-time piping — the fluting music
of a little reed. It drew near, stopped for a moment
as though the player watched them ; then, with a
plunging swift:ness, passed oflF through starry distance
252 THE CENTAUR xxxiv
up among the darker mountains. The lost, forsaken
Asian valley covered them. Nowhere were they
extraneous to it. They slept. And while they slept,
they moved across the frontiers of fulfilment.
The moon-blanched Gate of horn and ivory swung
open. The consciousness of the Earth possessed
them. They passed within.
' For of old the Sun, our sire,
Came wooing the mother of men,
Earth, that was virginal then.
Vestal fire to his fire.
Silent her bosom and coy.
But the strong god sued and press'd ;
And born of their starry nuptial joy
Are all that drink of her breast.
• And the triumph of him that begot.
And the travail of her that bore,
Behold they are evermore
As warp and weft in our lot.
We are children of splendour and flame.
Of shuddering, also, and tears.
Magnificent out of the dust we came.
And abject from the spheres.
' O bright irresistible lord !
We are fruit of Earth's womb, each one.
And fruit of thy loins, O Sun,
Whence first was the seed outpour'd.
To thee as our Father we bow,
Forbidden thy Father to see.
Who is older and greater than thou, as thou
Art greater and older than we.*
William Watson, 'Ode in May.'
Very slowly the dawn came. The sky blushed rose,
trembled, flamed. A breath of wind stirred the
vapours that far below sheeted the surface of the
Black Sea, But it was still in that gentle twilight
before the actual colour comes that O'Malley found
he was lying with his eyes wide open, watching the
2 54 THE CENTAUR xxxv
rhododendrons. He may have slept meanwhile,
though ' sleep,' he says, involving loss of conscious-
ness, seemed no right description. A sense of interval
there was at any rate, a ' transition-blank,' — whatever
that may mean — he phrased it in the writing.
And, watching the rhododendron forest a hundred
yards below, he saw it move. Through the dim
light this movement passed and ran, here, there, and
everywhere. A curious soft sound accompanied it
that made him remember the Bible phrase of wind
' going in the tops of the mulberry trees.' Hushed,
swift, elusive murmur, it passed about him through the
dusk. He caught it next behind him and, turning,
noticed groups upon the slopes, — groups that he had
not seen the night before. These groups seemed also
now to move ; the isolated scattered clusters came
together, merged, ran to the parent forest below, or
melted just beyond the line of vision above.
The wind sprang up and rattled all the million
leaves. That rattling filled the air, and with it came
another, deeper sound like to a sound of tramping
that seemed to shake the earth. Confusion caught
him then completely, for it was as if the mountain-
side awoke, rose up, and shook itself into a wild
and multitudinous wave of life.
At first he thought the wind had somehow torn
the rhododendrons loose from their roots and was
strewing them with that tramping sound about the
slopes. But the groups passed too swiftly over the
turf for that, swept completely from their fastenings,
while the tramping grew to a roaring as of cries and
voices. That roaring had the quality of the voice
that reached him weeks ago across the iEgean Sea.
A strange, keen odour, too, that was not wholly
unfamiliar, moved upon the wind.
XXXV THE CENTAUR 255
And then he knew that what he had been watch-
ing all along were not rhododendrons at all, but living,
splendid creatures. A host of others, moreover,
large ones and small together, stood shadowy in the
background, stamping their feet upon the turf, manes
tossing in the early wind, in their entire mass awful as
in their individual outline somehow noble.
The light spread upwards from the east. With a
fire of terrible joy and wonder in his heart, O'Malley
held his breath and stared. The lustre of their
glorious bodies, golden bronze in the sunlight, dazed
the sight. He saw the splendour of ten hundred
velvet flanks in movement, with here and there the
uprising whiteness of a female outline that flashed
and broke above the general mass like foam upon a
great wave's crest — figures of incomparable grace
and power ; the sovereign, upright carriage ; the
rippling muscles upon massive limbs, and shoulders
that held defiant strength and softness in exquisite
combination. And then he heard huge murmurs of
their voices that filled the dawn, aged by lost thousand
years, and sonorous as the booming of the sea. A
cry that was like singing escaped him. He saw
them rise and sweep away. There was a rush of
magnificence. They cantered — wonderfully. They
The roar of their curious commotion travelled
over the mountains, dying into distance very swiftly.
The rhododendron forest that had concealed their
approach resumed its normal aspect, but burning now
with colours innumerable as the sunrise caught its
thousand blossoms. And O'Malley understood that
during ' sleep ' he had passed with his companion
through the gates of ivory and horn, and stood now
within the first Garden of the early world. All
256 THE CENTAUR xxxv
frontiers crossed, all barriers behind, he stood within
the paradise of his heart's desire. The Conscious-
ness of the Earth included him. These were early
forms of life she had projected — some of the living
prototypes of legend, myth, and fable — embodiments
of her first manifestations of consciousness, and eternal,
accessible to every heart that holds a true and passion-
ate worship. All his life this love of Nature, which
was worship, had been his. It now fulfilled itself.
Merged by love into the consciousness of the Being
loved, he felt her thoughts, her powers, and mani-
festations of life as his own.
In a flash, of course, this all passed clearly before
him ; but there was no time to dwell upon it. For
the activity of his companion had likewise become
suddenly tremendous. He had risen into complete
revelation at last. His own had called him. He
was off to join his kind.
The transformation came upon both of them, it
seems, at once, but in that moment of bewilderment,
the Irishman only realized it first in his leader.
For on the edge of the advancing sunlight first
this Cosmic Being crouched, then rose with alert and
springing movement, leaping to his feet in a single
bound that propelled him with a stride of more than
a man's two limbs. His great sides quivered as he
shook himself. A roar, similar to that sound the
distance already swallowed, rolled forth into the air.
With head thrown back, chest forward, too, for all
the backward slant of the mighty shoulders, he stood
there, grandly outlined, pushing the wind before him.
The great brown eyes shone with the joy of freedom
and escape — a superb and regal transformation.
Urged by the audacity of his strange excitement,
the Irishman obeyed an impulse that came he knew
XXXV THE CENTAUR 257
not whence. The single word sprang to his lips
before he could guess its meaning, much less hold it
'Lapithae . . .!' he cried aloud ;* Lapithas . . . !'
The stalwart figure turned with an awful spring
as though it would trample him to the ground. A
moment the brown eyes flamed with a light of
battle. Then, with another roar, and a gesture that
was somehow both huge and simple, he seemed to
rise and paw the air. The next second this figure of
the Urwelt^ come once more into its own, bent down
and forward, leaped wonderfully — then, cantering,
raced away across the slopes to join his kind. He
went like a shape of wind and cloud. The heritage
of racial memory was his, and certain words remained
still vividly evocative. That old battle with the
Lapithas was but one item of the scenes of ancient
splendour lying pigeon-holed in his mighty Mother's
consciousness. The instant he had called, the Irish-
man himself lay caught in lost memory's tumultuous
whirl. The lonely world about him seemed of a
sudden magnificently peopled — sky, woods, and
He watched a moment the fierce rapidity with
which he sped towards the mountains, the sound of
his feet already merged in that other, vaster tramp-
ing, and then he turned — to watch himself. For a
similar transformation was going forward in himself,
and with the happiness of wild amazement he saw it.
Already, indeed, it was accomplished. All white and
shining lay the sunlight over his own extended form.
Power was in his limbs ; he rose above the ground
in some new way ; the usual little stream of breath
became a river of rushing air he drew into stronger,
more capacious lungs ; likewise his bust grew
258 THE CENTAUR xxxv
strangely deepened, pushed the wind before it ; and
the sunshine glowed on shaggy flanks agleam with
dew that powerfully drove the ground behind him
while he ran.
He ran, yet only partly as a man runs ; he found
himself shot forwards through the air, upright, yet
at the same time upon all fours. Brandishing his
arms he flew with a free, unfettered motion, travers-
ing the surface of the mother's mind and body. Free
of the entire Earth he was.
And as he raced to join the others, there passed
again across his memory faintly — it was like the little
memory of some physical pain almost — the picture
of the boy who swam so strangely in the sea, the
picture of the parent's curious emanations on the
deck, and, lastly, of those flying shapes of cloud and
wind his inner vision brought so often speeding over
long, bare hills. This was the final fragment of the
outer world that reached him. . . .
He tore along the mountains in the dawn, the
awful speed at last explained. His going made a
sound upon the wind, and like the wind he raced.
Far beyond him in the distance, he saw the shadow
of that disappearing host spreading upon the valleys
like a mist. Faintly still he caught their sound of
roaring ; but it was his own feet now that made that
trampling as of hoofs upon the turf. The landscape
moved and opened, gathering him in. . . .
And, hardly had he gone, when there stole upon
the place where he had stood, a sweet and simple
sound of music — the little piping of a reed. It
dropped down through the air, perhaps, or came
from the forest edge, or possibly the sunrise brought
it — this ancient little sound of fluting on those Pipes
men call the Pipes of Pan. . . .
' Here we but peak and dwindle :
The clank of chain and crane,
The whir of crank and spindle
Bewilder heart and brain ;
The ends of our endeavour
Are wealth and fame,
Yet in the still Forever
We're one and all the same ;
* Yet beautiful and spacious
The wise, old world appears.
Yet frank and fair and gracious
Outlaugh the jocund years.
Our arguments disputing,
The universal Pan
Still wanders fluting — fluting —
Fluting to maid and man.
Our weary well-a-waying
His music cannot still :
Come ! let us go a-maying.
And pipe with him our fill.'
W. E. Henley.
In a detailed description, radiant with a wild loveli-
ness of some forgotten beauty, and of necessity often
incoherent, the Irishman conveyed to me, sitting in
that dreary Soho restaurant, the passion of his vision.
With an astonishing vitality and a wealth of deep
conviction it all poured from his lips. There was
no halting and no hesitation. Like a man in trance
he talked, and like a man in trance he lived it over
again while imparting it to me. None came to
26o THE CENTAUR xxxvi
disturb us in our dingy corner. Indeed there is no
quieter place in all London town than the back room
of these eating-houses of the French Quarter between
the hours of lunch and dinner. The waiters vanish,
the ' patron ' disappears ; no customers come in.
But I know surely that its burning splendour came
not from the actual words he used, but was due to
definite complete transference of the vision itself into
my own heart. I caught the fire from his very
thought. His heat inflamed my mind. Words,
both in the uttered and the written version, dimmed
it all distressingly.
And the completeness of the transference is
proved for me by the fact that I never once had
need to ask a question. I saw and understood it all
as he did. And hours must have passed during the
strange recital, for towards the close people came in
and took the vacant tables, the lights were up, and
grimy waiters clattered noisily about with plates and
knives and forks, thrusting an inky carte du jour
beneath our very faces.
Yet how to set it down I swear I know not. Nor
he, indeed. The note-books that I found in that old
sack of Willesden canvas were a disgrace to any man
who bid for sanity, — a disgrace to paper and pencil
All memory of his former life, it seems, at first,
had fallen utterly away ; nothing survived to remind
him of it ; and thus he lost all standard of com-
parison. The state he moved in was too complete
to admit of standards or of critical judgment. For
these confine, imprison, and belittle, whereas he was
free. His escape was unconditioned. From the
thirty years of his previous living, no single fragment
broke through. The absorption was absolute.
XXXVI THE CENTAUR 261
' I really do believe and know myself,' he said to
me across that spotted table-cloth, ' that for the time
I was merged into the being of another, a being
immensely greater than myself. Perhaps old Stahl
was right, perhaps old crazy Fechner ; and it actually
was the consciousness of the Earth, I can only tell
you that the whole experience left no room in me for
other memories ; all I had previously known was
gone, wiped clean away. Yet much of what came in
its place is beyond me to describe ; and for a curious
reason. It's not the size or splendour that prevent
the telling, but rather the sublime simplicity of it all.
I know no language to-day simple enough to utter
it. Far behind words it lies, as difficult of full
recovery as the dreams of deep sleep, as the ecstasy
of the religious, elusive as the mystery of Kubla
Khan or the Patmos visions of St. John. Full
recapture, I am convinced, is not possible at all in
' And at the time it did not seem like vision ; it
was so natural ; unstudied, unprepared, and ever
there ; spontaneous too and artless as a drop of
water or a baby's toy. The natural is ever the
unchanging. My God ! I tell you, man, it was
^ divine ! '
He made about him a vehement sweeping gesture
with his arm which emphasized more poignantly than
speech the contrast he felt here where we sat — tight,
confining walls, small stifling windows, chairs to rest
the body, smothering roof and curtains, doors of
narrow entrance and exit, floors to lift above the
sweet surface of the soil, — all of them artificial
barriers to shut out light and separate away from the
Earth. * See what we've come to ! ' it said plainly.
And it included even his clothes and boots and collar.
262 THE CENTAUR xxxvi
the ridiculous hat upon the peg, the unsightly ' brolly '
in the dingy corner. Had there been room in me
for laughter, I could well have laughed aloud.
For as he raced across that stretch of splendid
mountainous Earth, watching the sunrise kiss the
valleys and the woods, shaking the dew from his feet
and swallowing the very wind for breath, he realized
that other forms of life similar to his own were
everywhere about him — also moving.
' They were a part of the Earth even as I was.
Here she was crammed to the brim with them —
projections of her actual self and being, crowded with
this incomparable ancient beauty that was strong as
her hills, swift as her running streams, radiant as her
wild flowers. Whether to call them forms or
thoughts or feelings, or Powers perhaps, I swear, old
man, 1 know not. Her Consciousness through which
I sped, drowned, lost, and happy, wrapped us all in
together as a mood contains its own thoughts and
feelings. For she was a Being — of sorts. And I
was in her mind, mood, consciousness, call it what
you best can. These other thoughts and presences I
felt were the raw material of forms, perhaps — Forces
that when they reach the minds of men must clothe
themselves in form in order to be known, whether
they be Dreams, or Gods, or any other kind of
inspiration. Closer than that I cannot get ... I
knew myself within her being like a child, and 1 felt
the deep, eternal pull — to simple things.'
And thus the beauty of the early world com-
panioned him, and all the forgotten gods moved
forward into life. They hovered everywhere,
immense and stately. The rocks and trees and
XXXVI THE CENTAUR 263
peaks that half concealed them, betrayed at the same
time great hints of their mighty gestures. Near him,
they were ; he moved towards their region. If
definite sight refused to focus on them the fault
was not their own but his. He never doubted that
they could be seen. Yet, even thus partially, they
manifested — terrifically. He was aware of their
overshadowing presences. Sight, after all, was an
incomplete form of knowing — a thing he had left
behind — elsewhere. It belonged, with the other
limited sense-channels, to some attenuated dream
now all forgotten. Now he knew all over. He
himself was of them.
' I am home ! ' it seems he cried as he ran
cantering across the sunny slopes. 'At last I have
found you ! Home . . . ! ' and the stones shot
wildly from his thundering tread.
A roar of windy power filled the sky, and far
away that echoing tramping paused to listen.
' We have called you ! Come ! . . .'
And the forms moved down slowly from their
mountainous pedestals; the woods breathed out a
sigh ; the running water sang ; the slopes all
murmured through their grass and flowers. For a
worshipper, strayed from the outer world of the dead
stood within the precincts of their ancient temple.
He had passed the Angel with the flaming sword those
very dead had set there long ago. The Garden now
enclosed him. He had found the heart of the Earth,
his mother. Self-realization in the perfect union with
Nature was fulfilled. He knew the Great At-one-
The quiet of the dawn still lay upon the world ;
dew sparkled ; the air was keen and fresh. Yet, in
264 THE CENTAUR xxxvi
spite of all this vast sense of energy, this vigour and
delight, O'Malley no longer felt the least goading of
excitement. There was this animation and this fine
delight ; but craving for sensation of any kind, was
gone. Excitement, as it tortured men in that outer
world he had left, could not exist in this larger state
of being ; for excitement is the appetite for some-
thing not possessed, magnified artificially till it has
become a condition of dis-ease. All that he needed
was now contained within himself; he was at-ease ;
and, literally, that unrest which men miscall delight
could touch him not nor torture him again.
If this were death — how exquisite !
And Time was not a passing thing, for it lay, he
says, somehow in an ocean everywhere, heaped up in
gulfs and spaces. It was as though he could help
himself and take it. That morning, had he so
wished, could last for ever ; he could go backwards
and taste the shadows of the night again, or forward
and bask in the glory of hot noon. There were no
parts of things, and so no restlessness, no sense of
incompleteness, no divisions.
This quiet of the dawn lay in himself, and, since
he loved it, lay there, cool and sweet and sparkling
for — years ; almost — for ever.
Moreover, while this giant form of Urweli-\ife
his inner self had assumed was new, it yet seemed
somehow familiar. The speed and weight and
power caused him no distress, there was no detail
that he could not manage easily. To race thus o'er
the world, keeping pace with an eternal dawn, was as
simple as for the Earth herself to spin through space.
His union with her was as complete as that. In
every item of her being lay the wonder of her perfect
xxxvi THE CENTAUR 265
form — a sphere. It was complete. Nothing could
add to it.
Yet, while all recollection of his former, pettier
self was gone, he began presently to remember — men.
Though never in relation to himself, he retained
dimly a picture of that outer world of strife and
terror. As a memory of illness he recalled it —
dreadfully, a nightmare fever from which he had
recovered, its horror already fading out. Cities and
crowds, poverty, illness, pain and all the various
terror of Civilization, robbed of the power to afflict,
yet still hung hovering about the surface of his
consciousness, though powerless to break his
For the power to understand it vanished ; no
part of him knew sympathy with it ; so clearly he
now saw himself sharing the Earth, that a vague
wonder filled him when he recalled the mad desires
of men to possess external forms of things. It was
amazing and perplexing. How could they ever
have devised such wild and childish efforts — all in
the wrong direction ?
If that outer life were the real one how could any
intelligent being think it worth while to live ? How
could any thinking man hold up his head and walk
along the street with dignity if that was what he
believed .'' Was a man satisfied with it worth
keeping alive at all? What bigger scheme could
ever use him ? The direction of modern life to-day
was diametrically away from happiness and truth.
Peace was the word he knew, peace and a singing
He played with the Earth's great dawn and raced
along these mountains through her mind. Of course
266 THE CENTAUR xxxvi
the hills could dance and sing and clap their hands.
He saw it clear. How could it be otherwise ?
They were expressions of her giant moods — what in
himself were thoughts — phases of her ample, surging
Consciousness. . . .
He passed with the sunlight down the laughing
valleys, spread with the morning wind above the
woods, shone on the snowy peaks, and leaped with a
rushing laughter among the crystal streams. These
were his swift and darting signs of joy, words of his
singing as it were. His main and central being
swung with the pulse of the Earth, too great for any
He read the book of Nature all about him, yes,
but read it singing. He understood how this
patient Mother hungered for her myriad lost children,
how in the passion of her summers she longed to
bless them, to wake their high yearnings with the
sweetness of her springs, and to whisper through her
autumns how she prayed for their return . . . !
Instinctively he read the giant Page before him.
For * every form in nature is a symbol of an idea
and represents a sign or letter. A succession of such
symbols forms a language ; and he who is a true
child of nature may understand this language and
know the character of everything. His mind
becomes a mirror wherein the attributes of natural
things are reflected and enter the field of his
consciousness. . . . For man himself is but a
thought pervading the ocean of mind.'
Whether or not he remembered these stammering
yet pregnant words from the outer world now left
behind, the truth they shadowed forth rose up
and took him . . . and so he flowed across the
mountains like a thing of wind and cloud, and so at
XXXVI THE CENTAUR 267
length came up with the stragglers of that mighty
herd of Urwelt life. He joined them in a river-bed
of those ancient valleys. They welcomed him and
took him to themselves.
For the particular stratum, as it were, of the
Earth's enormous Collective Consciousness to which
he belonged, or rather that part and corner in which
he was first at home, lay with these lesser ancient
forms. Although aware of far mightier expressions of
her life, he could not yet readily perceive or join them.
And this was easily comprehensible by the analogy
of his own smaller consciousness. Did not his own
mind hold thoughts of various kinds that could not
readily mingle ^ His thoughts of play and frolic,
for instance, could not combine with the august and
graver sentiments of awe and worship, though both
could dwell together in the same heart. And here
apparently, as yet, he only touched that frolicsome
fringe of consciousness that knew these wild and
playful lesser forms. Thus, while he was aware of
other more powerful figures of wonder all about him,
he never quite achieved their full recognition. The
ordered, deeper strata of her Consciousness to which
they belonged still lay beyond him.
Yet everywhere he fringed them. They haunted
the entire world. They brooded hugely with a
kind of deep magnificence that was like the slow
brooding of the Seasons ; they rose, looming and
splendid, through the air and sky, proud, strong,
and tragic. For, standing aloof from all the rest,
in isolation, like dreams in a poet's mind, too potent
for expression, they thus knew tragedy — the tragedy
of long neglect and loneliness.
Seated on peak and ridge, rising beyond the
268 THE CENTAUR xxxvi
summits in the clouds, filling the valleys, spread over
watercourse and forest, they passed their life of lonely
majesty — apart, their splendour too remote for him
as yet to share. Long since had Earth withdrawn
them from the hearts of men. Her lesser children
knew them no more. But still through the deep
recesses of her further consciousness they thundered
and were glad . . . though few might hear that
thunder, share that awful joy. . . .
Even the Irishman — who in ordinary life had felt
instinctively that worship which is close to love, and
so to the union that love brings — even he, in this
new-found freedom, only partially discerned their
presences. He felt them now, these stately Powers
men once called the gods, but felt them from a
distance ; and from a distance, too, they saw and
watched him come. He knew their gorgeous forms
half dimmed by a remote and veiled enchantment ;
knew that they reared aloft like ancient towers,
ruined by neglect and ignorance, starved and lonely,
but still hauntingly splendid and engaging, still
terrifically alive. And it seemed to him that some-
times their awful eyes flashed with the sunshine over
slope and valley, and that wherever they rested flowers
sprang to life.
Their nearness sometimes swept him like a storm,
and then the entire herd with which he mingled
would stand abruptly still, caught by a wave of awe
and wonder. The host of them stood still upon the
grass, their frolic held a moment, their voices hushed,
only deep panting audible and the soft shuffling of
their hoofs among the flowers. They bowed their
splendid heads and waited — while a god went past
them. . . . And through himself, as witness of the
passage, a soft, majestic power also swept. With the
XXXV. THE CENTAUR 269
lift of a hurricane, yet with the gentleness of dew, he
felt the noblest in himself irresistibly evoked. It was
gone again as soon as come. It passed. But it left
him charged with a regal confidence and joy. As in
the mountains a shower of snow picks out the highest
peaks in white, tracing its course and pattern over
the entire range, so in himself he knew the highest
powers — aspirations, yearnings, hopes — raised into
shining, white activity, and by these quickened
splendours of his soul could recognize the nature ot
the god who came so close.
And, keeping mostly to the river-beds, they
splashed in the torrents, played and leaped and
cantered. From the openings of many a moist cave
others came to join them. Below a certain level,
though, they never went ; the forests knew them
not ; they loved the open, windy heights. They
turned and circulated as by a common consent,
wheeling suddenly together as if a single desire
actuated the entire mass. One instinct spread, as it
were, among the lot, shared instantly, conveying to
each at once the general impulse. Their movements
in this were like those of birds whose flight in coveys
obeys the order of a collective consciousness of which
each single one is an item — expressions of one single
Bird-Idea behind, distributed through all.
And O'Malley without questioning or hesitation
obeyed, while yet he was free to do as he wished
alone. To do as they did was the greatest pleasure,
that was all.
For sometimes with two of them, one fully-formed,
the other of lesser mould — he flew on little journeys
of his own. These two seemed nearer to him than
the rest. He felt he knew them and had been with
270 THE CENTAUR xxxvi
them before. Their big brown eyes continually
sought his own with pleasure. It almost seemed as
if they had all three been separated long away from
one another, and had at last returned. No definite
memory of the interval came back, however ; the sea,
the steamer, and the journey's incidents all had
faded — part of that world of lesser insignificant dream
where they had happened. But these two kept close
to him ; they ran and danced together. . . .
The time that passed included many dawns and
nights and also many noons of splendour. It all
seemed endless, perfect, and serene. That anything
could finish here did not once occur to him. Com-
plete things cannot finish. He passed through seas
and gulfs of glorious existence. For the strange
thing was that while he only remembered afterwards
the motion, play, and laughter, he yet had these
other glimpses here and there of some ordered and
progressive life existing just beyond. It lay hidden
deeper within. He skimmed its surface ; but some-
thing prevented his knowing it fully. And the
limitation that held him back belonged, it seemed,
to that thin world of trivial dreaming he had left
behind. He had not shaken it off entirely. It still
obscured his sight.
The scale and manner of this greater life faintly
reached him, nothing more. It may be that he only
failed to bring back recollection, or it may be that he
did not penetrate deeply enough to know. At any
rate, he recognized that this sudden occasional passing
by of vast deific figures had to do with it, and that
all this ocean of Earth's deeper Consciousness was
peopled with forms of life that obeyed some splendid
system of progressive ordered existence. To be
gathered up in this one greater consciousness was
XXXVI THE CENTAUR 271
not the end. . . . Rather was it merely the begin-
ning. . . .
Meantime he learned that here, among these lesser
thoughts of the great Mother, all the Pantheons of
the world had first their origin — the Greek, the
Eastern, and the Northern too. Here all the gods
that men have ever half divined, still ranged the
moods of Her timeless consciousness. Their train of
beauty, too, accompanied them.
I cannot half recall the streams of passionate
description with which his words clothed these
glowing memories of his vision. Great pictures of
it haunt the background of my mind, pictures that
lie in early mists, framed by the stars and glimmering
through some golden, flowered dawn. Besides the
huger outlines that stood breathing in the back-
ground like dark mountains, there flitted here and
there strange dreamy forms of almost impossible
beauty, slender as lilies, eyes soft and starry shining
through the dusk, hair flying past them like a rain
of summer flowers. Nymph-like they moved down
all the pathways of the Earth's young mind, singing
and radiant, spring blossoms in the Garden of her
Consciousness. . . . And other forms, more vehement
and rude, urged to and fro across the pictures ;
crowding the movement ; some playful and protean ;
some clothed as with trees, or air, or water ; and
others dark, remote, and silent, ranging her deeper
layers of thought and dream, known rarely to the
outer world at all.
The rush and glory of it all is more than my mind
can deal with. I gather, though, O'Malley saw no
definite forms, but rather knew ' forces,' powers,
aspects of this Soul of Earth, facets she showed in
272 THE CENTAUR xxxvi
long-forgotten days to men. Certainly the very
infusoria of his imagination were kindled and aflame
when he spoke of them. Through the tangled
thicket of his ordinary mind there shone this passion
of an uncommon loveliness and splendour.
'The hours when the mind is absorbed by beauty are the only
hours when we really live, so that the longer we can stay among these
things, so much the more is snatched from inevitable time.' — Richard
In the relationship that his everyday mind bore
to his present state there lay, moreover, a wealth
of pregnant suggestion. The bridge connecting his
former ' civilized ' condition with this cosmic ex-
perience was a curious one. That outer, lesser
state, it seemed, had known a foretaste sometimes of
the greater. And it was hence had come those
dreams of a Golden Age that used to haunt him.
For he began now to recall the existence of that
outer world of men and women, though by means
of certain indefinite channels only. And the things
he remembered were not what the world calls
important. They were moments when he had
known — beauty ; beauty, however, not of the
grandiose sort that holds the crowd, but of so
simple and unadvertised a kind that most men over-
look it altogether.
He understood now why the thrill had been so
wonderful. He saw clearly why those moments of
ecstasy he had often felt in Nature used to torture
him with an inexpressible yearning that was rather
pain than joy. For they were precisely what he now
274 THE CENTAUR xxxvii
experienced when the viewless figure of a god passed
by him. Down there, out there, below — in that
cabined lesser state — they had been partial, but were
now complete. Those moments of worship he had
known in woods, among mountains, by the shores of
desolate seas, even in a London street, perhaps at the
sight of a tree in spring or of a pathway of blue sky
between the summer clouds, — these had been, one and
all, tentative, partial revelations of the Consciousness
of the Soul of Earth he now knew face to face.
These were his only memories of that outer world.
Of people, cities, or of civilization apart from these,
he had no single remembrance.
Certain of these little partial foretastes now came
back to him, like fragments of dream that trouble the
He remembered, for instance, one definite picture :
a hot autumn sun upon a field of stubble where the
folded corn-sheaves stood ; thistles waving by the
hedges ; a yellow field of mustard rising up the slope
against the sky-line, and beyond a row of peering elms
that rustled in the wind. The beauty of the little
scene was somehow poignant. He recalled it vividly.
It had flamed about him, transfiguring the world ; he
had trembled, yearning to see more, for just behind
it he divined with an exulting passionate worship this
gorgeous, splendid Earth-Being with whom at last he
now actually moved. In that instant of a simple
loveliness her consciousness had fringed his own —
had bruised it. He had known it only by the partial
channels of sight and smell and hearing, but had felt
the greater thing beyond, without being able to
explain it. And a portion of what he felt had burst
in speech from his lips.
XXXVII THE CENTAUR 275
He was there, he remembered, with two persons,
a man and woman whose name and face, however,
he could not summon, and he recalled that the
woman smiled incredulously when he spoke of the
exquisite perfume of those folded corn-sheaves in the
air. She told him he imagined it. He saw again
the pretty woman's smile of incomprehension ; he
saw the puzzled expression in the eyes of the man ;
he heard him murmur something prosaic about the
soul, about birds, too, and the prospects of killing
hundreds later — sport ! He even saw the woman
picking her way with caution as though the touch
of earth could stain or injure her. He especially
recalled the silence that had followed on his words
that sought to show them — Beauty. . . . He
remembered, too, above all, the sense of loneliness
among men that it induced in himself.
But the memory brought him a curious, sharp
pain ; and turning to that couple who were now his
playmates in this Garden of the Earth, he called
them with a singing cry and cantered over leagues of
flowers, wind, and sunshine before he stopped again.
They leaped and danced together, exulting in their
spacious Urwelt freedom . . . want of comprehen-
sion no longer possible.
The memory fled away. He shook himself free
of it. Then others came in its place, another and
another, not all with people, blind, deaf, and un-
receptive, yet all of ' common,' simple scenes of
beauty when something vast had surged upon him
and broken through the barriers that stand between
the heart and Nature. Such curious little scenes
they were. In most of them he had evidently been
alone. But one and all had touched his soul with
276 THE CENTAUR xxxvn
a foretaste of this same nameless ecstasy that now he
knew complete. In every one the Consciousness of
the Earth had ' bruised ' his own.
Utterly simple they had been, one and all, these
partial moments of blinding beauty in that lesser,
outer world : — A big, brown, clumsy bee he saw,
blundering into the petals of a wild-flower on which
the dew lay sparkling. ... A wisp of coloured
cloud driving loosely across the hills, dropping a
purple shadow. . . . Deep, waving grass, plunging
and shaking in the wind that drew out its under-
world of blue and silver over the whole spread surface
of a field. ... A daisy closed for the night upon
the lawn, eyes tightly shut, hands folded. ... A
south wind whispering through larches. . . . The
pattering of summer rain upon young oak leaves in
the dawn. . . . Fingers of long blue distance upon
dreamy woods. . . . Anemones shaking their pale and
starry little faces in the wind. . . . The columned
stillness of a pinewood in the dusk. . . . Young
birch trees mid the velvet gloom of firs. . . . The
new moon setting in a cloud of stars. . . . The hush
of stars in many a summer night. . . . Sheep grazing
idly down a sun-baked hill. . , . A path of moonlight
on a lake. ... A little wind through bare and wintry
woods. . . . Oh ! he recalled the wonder, loveliness,
and passion of a thousand more !
They thronged and passed, and thronged again,
crowding one another : — all golden moments of
revelation when he had caught glimpses of the Earth,
and her greater Moods had swept him up into
herself. Moments in which a god had passed. . . .
These were his only memories of that outer world
he had left behind : flashes of simple beauty.
Was thus the thrill of beauty then explained ?
xxxvii THE CENTAUR 277
Was loveliness, as men know it, a revelation of the
Earth-Soul behind ? And were the blinding flash, the
dazzling wonder, and the dream men seek to render
permanent in music, colour, line and language, a
vision of her nakedness ? Down there, the poets and
those simple enough of heart to stand close to Nature,
could catch these whispered fragments of the enormous
message, told as in secret ; but now, against her very
heart he heard the thunder of the thing complete.
Now, in the glory of all naked bodily forms, — of
women, men and children, of swift animals, of flowers,
trees, and running water, of mountains and of seas, —
he understood these partial revelations of the great
Earth-Soul that bore them, gave them life. For one
and all were channels for her loveliness. He saw the
beauty of the ' natural ' instincts, the passion of
motherhood and fatherhood — Earth's seeking to
project herself in endless forms and variety. He
understood why love increased the heart and made
it feel at one with all the world.
Moreover in some amazing fashion he was aware
that others from that outer world beside himself
had access here, and that from this Garden of the
Earth's deep central personality came all the inspira-
tion known to men. He divined that others were
even now drawing upon it like himself. The
thoughts of the poets went past him like thin
flames ; the dreams of millions — mute, inexpressible
yearnings like those he had himself once known —
streamed by in pale white light, to shoot forward
with a little nesting rush into some great Figure . . .
and then return in double volume to the dreaming
heart whence first they issued. Shadows, too, he
saw, by myriads — faint, feeble gropings of men and
278 THE CENTAUR xxxvii
women seeking it eagerly, yet hardly knowing what
they sought ; but, above all, long, singing, beautiful
tongues of coloured flame that were the instincts of
divining children and of the pure in heart. These
came in rippling floods unerringly to their goal,
lingered for long periods before returning. And
all, he knew, were currents of the great Earth Life,
moods, thoughts, dreams — expressions of her various
Consciousness with which she mothered, fed, and
blessed all whom it was possible to reach. Their pas-
sionate yearning, their worship, made access possible.
Along the tenderest portions of her personality these
latter came, as by a spread network of infinitely deli-
cate filaments that extended from herself, deliciously
inviting. . . .
The thing, however, that remained with him
long after his return to the normal state of lesser
consciousness was the memory of those blinding
moments when a god went past him, or, as he
phrased it in another way, when he caught glimpses
of the Earth — naked. For these were instantaneous
flashes of a gleaming whiteness, a dazzling and
supreme loveliness that staggered thought and
arrested feeling, while yet of a radiant simplicity
that brought — for a second at least — a measure of
He then knew not mere partial projections. He
saw beyond — deep down into the flaming centre
that gave them birth. The blending of his being
with the Cosmic Consciousness was complete enough
for this. He describes it as a spectacle of sheer
glory, stupendous, even terrifying. The refulgent
majesty of it utterly possessed him. The shock of
its magnificence came, moreover, upon his entire
XXXVII THE CENTAUR 279
being, and was not really of course a ' sight ' at all.
The message came not through any small division of
a single sense. With a massed yet soaring power it
shook him free of all known categories. He then
fringed a region of yet greater being wherein he
tasted for a moment some secret comprehension of a
true ' divinity.' The deliverance into ecstasy was
In these flashing moments, when a second seemed
a thousand years, he further understood the splendour
of the stage beyond. Earth in her turn was but a
Mood in the Consciousness of the Universe, that
Universe again was mothered by another vaster
one . . . and the total that included them all was
not the gods — but God.
The litter ot disordered note-books filled to the
covers with fragments of such beauty that they
almost seem to burn with a light of their own, lies at
this moment before me on my desk. I still hear
the rushing torrent of his language across the spotted
table-cloth in that dark restaurant corner. But the
incoherence seems only to increase with my best
efforts to combine the two.
* Go home and dream it,' as he said at last when
I ventured a question here and there towards the
end of the recital. ' You'll see it best that way — in
sleep. Get clear away from me^ and my surface
physical consciousness. Perhaps it will come to you
There remains, however, to record the manner of
his exit from that great Garden of the Earth's fair
youth. And he tells it more simply. Or, perhaps,
it is that I understand it better.
For suddenly, in the midst of all the joy and
splendour that he tasted, there came unbidden a
strengthening of the tie that held him to his * outer,'
lesser state. A wave of pity and compassion surged
in upon him from the depths. He saw the struggling
millions in the prisons and cages civihzation builds.
He felt with them. No happiness, he understood,
THE CENTAUR 281
could be complete that did not also include them all ;
and — he longed to tell them. The thought and the
desire tore across him burningly.
* If only I can get this back to them ! ' passed
through him, like a flame. ' I'll save the world by
bringing it again to simple things ! I've only got to
tell it and all will understand at once — and follow ! '
And with the birth of the desire there ran a deep
convulsive sound like music through the greater
Consciousness that held him close. Those Moods
that were the gods, thronged gloriously about him,
almost pressing forwards into actual sight. . . . He
might have lingered where he was for centuries, or
for ever ; but this thought pulled him back — the
desire to share his knowledge with the world, the
passion to heal and save and rescue.
And instantly, in the twinkling of an eyelid, the
Urwelt closed its gates of horn and ivory behind
him. An immense dark shutter dropped noiselessly
with a speed of lightning across his mind. He
stood without. . . .
He found himself near the tumbled-down stone
huts of a hamlet that he recognized. He staggered,
rubbed his eyes, and stared. A forest of beech trees
shook below him in a violent wind. He saw the
branches tossing. A Caucasian saddle-horse beside
him nosed a sack that spilt its flour on the ground
at his feet, he heard the animal's noisy breathing ;
he noted the sliding movement of the spilt flour
before it finally settled ; and some fifty yards beyond
him, down the slopes, he saw a human figure —
It was his Georgian guide. The man, half
stooping, caught the woollen bashlik that had fallen
from his head.
O'Malley watched the man complete the gesture.
Still running, he replaced the cap upon his head.
And coming up to his ears upon the wind were
the words of a broken French sentence that he
also recognized. Disjointed by terror, it completed
an interrupted phrase : —
* . . . one of them is close upon us. Hide
your eyes ! Save yourself ! They come from the
mountains. They are old as the stones . . .
No other living being was in sight.
The extraordinary abruptness of the transition pro-
duced no bewilderment, it seems. Realizing that
without Rostom he would be in a position of helpless-
ness that might be serious, the Irishman put his hands
to his lips and called out with authority to the running
figure of his frightened guide. He shouted to him
' There is nothing to fear. Come back ! Are
you afraid of a gust of wind ? '
And in his face and voice, perhaps too in his
manner, was something he had brought back from
the vision, for the man stopped at once in his headlong
course, paused a moment to stare and question, and
then, though still looking over his shoulder and
making occasional signs of his religion, came slowly
back to his employer's side again.
' It has passed,' said O'Malley in a voice that
seemed to crumble in his mouth. * It is gone again
into the mountains whence it came. We are safe.
With me,' he added, not without a secret sense of
humour stirring in him, ' you will always be safe.
I can protect us both.' He felt as normal as a
British officer giving orders to his soldiers. And the
Georgian slowly recovered his composure, yet for a
long time keeping close to the other's side.
284 THE CENTAUR xxxix
The transition, thus, had been as sudden and
complete as anything well could be. O'Malley
described it as the instantaneous dropping of a shutter
across his mind. The entire vision had lasted but a
fraction of a second, and in a fraction of a second,
too, he had returned to his state of everyday lesser
consciousness. That blending with the Earth's great
Consciousness was but a flashing glimpse after all.
The extension of personality had been momentary.
So absolute, moreover, was the return that at first,
remembering nothing, he took up life again exactly
where he had left it. The guide completed the
gesture and the sentence which the vision had inter-
rupted, and O'Malley, similarly, resumed his own
thread of thought and action.
Only a hint remained. That, and a curious sense
of interval, alone were left to witness this flash of an
immense vision, — of cosmic consciousness — that
apparently had filled so many days and nights.
' It was like waking suddenly in the night out of
deep sleep,' he said; 'not of one's own accord, or gradu-
ally, but as when someone shakes you out of slumber
and you are wide awake at once. You have been
dreaming vigorously — thick, lively, crowded dreams,
and they all vanish on the instant. You catch the
tail-end of the procession just as it's diving out of
sight. In less than a second all is gone.'
For this was the hint that remained. He caught
the flying tail-end of the vision. He knew he had
seen something. But, for the moment, that was all.
Then, by degrees and afterwards, the details re-
emerged. In the days that followed, while with
Rostom he completed the journey already planned,
the deeper consciousness gave back its memory piece
by piece ; and piece by piece he set it down in note-
XXXIX THE CENTAUR 285
books as best he could. The memory was on deposit
deep within him, and at intervals he tapped it. Hence,
of course, is due the confused and fragmentary
character of those bewildering entries ; hence, at the
same time, too, their truth and value. For here was
no imaginative dream concocted in a mood of high
invention. The parts were disjointed, incomplete,
just as they came. The lesser consciousness, it seems,
could not contain the thing complete ; nor to the
last, I judge, did he ever know complete recapture.
They wandered for two weeks and more about the
mountains, meeting various adventure by the way,
reported duly in his letters of travel. But these con-
cerned the outer man and have no proper place in this
strange record . . . and by the middle of July
he found himself once more in — civilization. At
Michaelevo he said good-bye to Rostom and took
And it was with the return to the conditions of
modern life that the reaction set in and stirred the
deeper layers of consciousness to reproduce their store
of magic. For this return to what seemed the paltry
activities of an age of machinery, physical luxury, and
superficial contrivances brought him a sense of pain
that was acute and trenchant, more — a deep and
poignant sense of loss. The yearnings, no longer
satisfied, began again to reassert themselves. It was
not the actual things the world seemed so busy about
that pained him, but rather the point of view from
which the world approached them — those that it
deemed with one consent ' important,' and those, with
rare exceptions, it obviously deemed worth no
consideration at all, and ignored. For himself these
values stood exactly reversed.
286 THE CENTAUR xxxix
The Vision then came back to him, rose from the
depths, blinded his eyes with maddening beauty, sang
in his ears, possessed his heart and mind. He burned
to tell it. The world of tired, restless men, he felt,
must equally burn to hear it. Some vision of a simple
life lived close to Nature came before his inner eye as
the remedy for the vast disease of restless self-seeking
of the age, the medicine that should cure the entire
world. A return to Nature was the first step towards
the great Deliverance men sought. And, most of
all, he yearned to tell it first to Heinrich Stahl.
To hear him talk about it, as he talked perhaps to
me alone, was genuinely pathetic, for here, in Terence
O'Malley, I thought to see the essential futility of
all dreamers nakedly revealed. His vision was so
fine, sincere, and noble ; his difficulty in imparting it
so painful ; and its^inarriage with practical action so
ludicrously impracticable, At any rate that combina-
tion of vision and action, called sometimes genius,
which can shake the world, assuredly was not his.
For his was no constructive mind ; he was not
' intellectual ' ; he saw^ but with the heart ; he could
not build. To plan a new Utopia was as impossible
to him as to shape even in words the splendour he
had known and lived. Bricks and straw could only
smother him before he laid what most would deem
At first, too, in those days while waiting for the
steamer in Batoum, he kept strangely silent. Even
in his own thoughts was silence. He could not speak
of what he knew. Even paper refused it. But all
the time this glorious winged thing, that yet was simple
as the sunlight or the rain, went by his side, while
his soul knew the relief of some divine, proud utterance
that, he felt, could never know complete confession
XXXIX THE CENTAUR 287
in speech or writing. Later he stammered over it —
to his note-books and to me, and partially also to
Dr. Stahl. But at first it dwelt alone and hidden,
contained in this deep silence.
The days of waiting he filled with walks about the
streets, watching the world with new eyes. He took
the Russian steamer to Poti, and tramped with a
knapsack up the Tchourokh gorge beyond Bourtchka,
regardless of the Turkish gypsies and encampments
of wild peoples on the banks. The sense of personal
danger was impossible ; he felt the whole world kin.
That sense protected him. Pistol and cartridges lay
in his bag, forgotten at the hotel.
Delight and pain lay oddly mingled in him. The
pain he recognized of old, but this great radiant
happiness was new. The nightmare of modern
cheap] ack life was all explained ; unjustified, of course,
as he had always dimly felt, symptom of deep disorder ;
all due, this feverish, external business, to an odd
misunderstanding with the Earth. Humanity had
somehow quarrelled with her, claiming an independ-
ence that could not really last. For her the centuries
of this estrangement was but a little thing perhaps —
a moment or two in that huge life which counted a
million years to lay a narrow bed of chalk. They
would come back in time. Meanwhile she ever called.
A fcWy perhaps, already dreamed of return. Move-
ments, he had heard, were afoot — a tentative endeavour
here and there. They heard, these few, the splendid
whisper that, sweetly calling, ever passed about the
For her voice in the last resort was more potent
than all others — an enchantment that never wholly
faded ; men had but temporarily left her mighty
sides and gone astray, eating of trees of knowledge
288 THE CENTAUR xxxix
that brought them deceptive illusions of a mad self-
intoxication ; fallen away into the pains of separate-
ness and death. Loss of direction and central control
was the result ; the babel of many tongues so clumsily
invented, by which all turned one against another.
Insubordinate, artificial centres had assumed disastrous
command. Each struggled for himself against his
neighbours. Even religions fought to the blood.
A single sect could damn the rest of humanity, yet
in the same breath sing complaisantly of its own
Meanwhile She smiled in love and patience, letting
them learn their lesson ; meanwhile She watched and
waited while, like foolish children, they toiled and
sweated after futile transient things that brought no
single letter of content. She let them coin their
millions from her fairest thoughts, the gold and
silver in her veins ; and let them turn it into
engines of destruction, knowing that each ' life lost,'
returned into her arms and heart, crying with the
pain of its wayward foolishness, the lesson learned ;
She watched their tears and struggling just outside
the open nursery door, knowing they must at length
return for food ; and while thus waiting, watching.
She heard all prayers that reached her ; She answered
them with love and forgiveness ever ready ; and to
the few who realized their folly — naughtiness, perhaps,
at worst it was — this side of ' death,' She brought full
measure of peace and joy and beauty.
Not permanently could they hurt themselves, for
evil was but distance from her side, the ignorance of
those who had wandered furthest into the little dark
labyrinth of a separated self. The ' intellect ' they
were so proud of had misled them.
And sometimes, here and there across the ages.
XXXIX THE CENTAUR 289
with a glory that refused utterly to be denied, She
thundered forth her old sweet message of deliverance.
Through poet, priest, or child she called her children
home. The summons rang like magic across the
wastes of this dreary separated existence. Some
heard and listened, some turned back, some wondered
and were strangely thrilled ; some, thinking it too
simple to be true, were puzzled by the yearning and
the tears and went back to seek for a more difficult
way ; while most, denying the secret glory in their
hearts, sought to persuade themselves they loved the
strife and hurrying fever best.
At other times, again, she chose quite different
ways, and sent the amazing message in a flower, a
breath of evening air, a shell upon the shore ; though
oftenest, perhaps, it hid in a strain of music, a patch
of colour on the sea or hills, a rustle of branches in
a little twilight wind, a whisper in the dusk or in
the dawn. He remembered his own first visions
of it. . . .
Only never could the summons come to her
children through the intellect, for this it was that
led them first away. Her message enters ever by
The simple life ! He smiled as he thought of the
bald Utopias here and there devised by men, for he
had seen a truth whose brilliance smote his eyes too
dazzlingly to permit of the smallest corner of dark-
ness. Remote, no doubt, in time that day when the
lion shall lie down with the lamb and men shall live
together in peace and gentleness ; when the inner life
shall be admitted as the Reality, strife, gain, and loss
unknown because possessions undesired, and petty
selfhood merged in the larger life — remote, of course,
yet surely not impossible. He had seen the Face
290 THE CENTAUR xxxix
of Nature, heard her Call, tasted her joy and peace ;
and the rest of the tired world might do the same.
It only waited to be shown the way. The truth he
now saw so dazzling was that all who heard the call
might know it for themselves at once, cuirassed with
shining love that makes the whole world kin, the
Earth a mother literally divine. Each soul might
thus provide a channel along which the summons
home should pass across the world. To live with
Nature and share her greater consciousness, en route
for states yet greater, nearer to the eternal home —
this was the beginning of the truth, the life, the
He saw ' religion ' all explained : and those hard
sayings that make men turn away : — the imagined
dread of losing life to find it ; the counsel of per-
fection that the neighbour shall be loved as self ; the
fancied injury and outrage that made it hard for rich
men to enter the kingdom. Of these, as of a hundred
other sayings, he saw the necessary truth. It all
seemed easy now. The world would see it with
him ; it must ; it could not help itself Simplicity
as of a little child, and selflessness as of the mystic —
these were the splendid clues.
Death and the grave, indeed, had lost their victory.
For in the stages of wider consciousness beyond this
transient physical phase he saw all loved ones joined
and safe, as separate words upgathered each to each
in the parent sentence that explains them, the sentence
in the paragraph, the paragraph in the whole grand
story all achieved — and so at length into the eternal
library of God that consummates the whole.
He saw . the glorious series, timeless and serene,
advancing to the climax, and somehow understood
that individuality at each stage was never lost but
XXXIX THE CENTAUR 291
rather extended and magnified. Love of the Earth,
life close to Nature, and denial of so-called civiliza-
tion was the first step upwards. In the Simple Life,
in this return to Nature, lay the opening of the little
path that climbed to the stars and heaven.
At the end of the week the little steamer dropped
her anchor in the harbour and the Irishman booked
his passage home. He was standing on the wharf
to watch the unloading when a hand tapped him on
the shoulder and he heard a well-known voice. His
heart leaped with pleasure. There were no pre-
liminaries between these two.
' I am glad to sec you safe. You did not find
your friend, then ? '
O'Malley looked at the bronzed face beside him,
noted the ragged tobacco-stained beard, and saw the
look of genuine welcome in the twinkling brown
eyes. He watched him lift his cap and mop that
familiar dome of bald head.
' I'm safe,' was all he answered, ' because I found
For a moment Dr. Stahl looked puzzled. He
dropped the hand he held so tightly and led him
down the wharf.
' We'll get out of this devilish sun,' he said,
leading the way among the tangle of merchandise
and bales, ' it's enough to boil our brains.' They
passed through the crowd of swarthy, dripping
Turks, Georgians, Persians, and Armenians who
laboured half naked in the heat, and moved towards
the town. A Russian gunboat lay in the Bay, side
XL THE CENTAUR 293
by side with freight and passenger vessels. An oil-
tank steamer took on cargo. The scene was drenched
in sunshine. The Black Sea gleamed like molten
metal. Beyond, the wooded spurs of the Caucasus
climbed through haze into cloudless blue.
' It's beautiful,' remarked the German, pointing
to the distant coast-line, ' but hardly with the beauty
of those Grecian Isles we passed together. Eh .'' '
He watched him closely. ' You're coming back on
our steamer .? ' he asked in the same breath.
' It's beautiful,' O'Malley answered ignoring the
question, * because it lives. But there is dust upon
its outer loveliness, dust that has gathered through
long ages of neglect, dust that I would sweep away
— I've learnt how to do it. He taught me.'
Stahl did not even look at him, though the words
were wild enough. He walked at his side in silence.
Perhaps he partly understood. For this first link
with the outer world of appearances was difficult for
him to pick up. The person of Stahl, thick-coated
with the civilization whence he came, had brought it,
and out of the ocean of glorious vision in his soul,
O'Malley took at random the first phrases he could
' Yes, I've booked a passage on your steamer,' he
added presently, remembering the question. It did
not seem strange to him that his companion ignored
both clues he offered. He knew the man too well
for that. It was only that he waited for more before
They went to the little table outside the hotel
pavement where several weeks ago they had drunk
Kakhetian wine together and talked of deeper things.
The German called for a bottle, mineral water, ice,
and cigarettes. And while they sipped the cooling
294 THE CENTAUR xl
golden liquid, hats off and coats on the backs of their
chairs, Stahl gave him the news of the world of men
and events that had transpired meanwhile. O'Malley
listened vaguely as he smoked. It seemed remote,
unreal, almost fantastic, this long string of ugly,
frantic happenings, all symptoms of some disordered
state that was like illness. The scream of politics,
the roar and rattle of flying -machines, financial
crashes, furious labour upheavals, rumours of war, the
death of kings and magnates, awful accidents and
strange turmoil in enormous cities. Details of some
sad prison life, it almost seemed, pain and distress
and strife the note that bound them all together.
Men were mastered by these things instead of master-
ing them. These unimportant things they thought
would make them free only imprisoned them.
They lunched there at the little table in the shade,
and in turn the Irishman gave an outline of his
travels. Stahl had asked for it and listened atten-
tively. The pictures interested him.
' You've done your letters for the papers,' he
questioned him, ' and now, perhaps, you'll write a
book as well .? '
' Something may force its way out — come
blundering, thundering out in fragments, yes.'
* You mean you'd rather not — ^ '
' I mean it's all too big and overwhelming. He
showed me such blinding splendours. I might tell
it, but as to writing — ! ' He shrugged his shoulders.
And this time Dr. Stahl ignored no longer. He
took him up. But not with any expected words or
questions. He merely said, ' My friend, there's
something that I have to tell you — or, rather, I
should say, to show you.' He looked most keenly
at him, and in the old familiar way he placed a hand
XL THE CENTAUR 295
upon his shoulder. His voice grew soft. ' It may
upset you ; it may unsettle — prove a shock perhaps.
But if you are prepared, we'll go '
' What kind of shock .? ' O'Malley asked, startled
a moment by the gravity of manner.
' The shock of death,' was the answer, gently
The Irishman only knew a swift rush of joy and
wonder as he heard it.
' But there is no such thing ! ' he cried, almost
with laughter. ' He taught me that above all else.
There is no death ! '
' There is " going away," though,' came the re-
joinder, spoken low ; ' there is earth to earth and dust
to dust '
' That's of the body ! '
' That's of the body, yes,' the older man repeated
' There is only " going home," escape and freedom.
I tell you there's only that. It's nothing but joy
and splendour when you really understand.'
But Dr. Stahl made no immediate answer, nor any
comment. He paid the bill and led him down the
street. They took the shady side. Passing beyond
the skirts of the town they walked in silence. The
barracks where the soldiers sang, the railway line to
Tiflis and Baku, the dome and minarets of the church,
were left behind in turn, and presently they reached
the hot, straight dusty road that fringed the sea.
They heard the crashing of the little waves and
saw the foam creamily white against the dark grey
pebbles of the beach.
And when they reached a small enclosure where
thin trees were planted among sparse grass all brown
and withered by the sun, they paused, and Stahl
296 THE CENTAUR xl
pointed to a mound, marked at cither end by a
rough stone boulder. A date was on it, but no name.
O'Malley calculated the difference between the
Russian Calendar and the one he was accustomed to.
Stahl checked him.
' The fifteenth of June,' the German said.
' The fifteenth of June, yes,' said O'Malley very
slowly, but with wonder and excitement in his heart.
' That was the day that Rostom tried to run away —
the day I saw him come to me from the trees — the
day we started off together ... to the Garden. . . .'
He turned to his companion questioningly. For
a moment the rush of memory was quite bewildering.
' He never left Batoum at all, you see,' Stahl
continued, without looking up. ' He went straight
to the hospital the day we came into port. I was
summoned to him in the night — that last night
while you slept so deeply. His old strange fever
was upon him then, and I took him ashore before
the other passengers were astir. I brought him to
the hospital myself. And he never left his bed.'
He pointed down to the little nameless grave at
their feet where a wandering wind from the sea just
stirred the grasses. ' That was the date on which he
' He went away in the early morning,' he added
in a low voice that held both sadness and sympathy.
* He went home,' said the Irishman, a tide of joy
rising tumultuously through his heart as he re-
membered. The secret of that complete and absolute
Leadership was out. He understood it all. It had
been a spiritual adventure to the last.
Then followed a pause.
In silence they stood there for some minutes.
There grew no flowers on that grave, but O'Malley
XL THE CENTAUR 297
stooped down and picked a strand of the withered
grass. He put it carefully between the pages of his
note-book ; and then, lying flat against the ground
where the sunshine fell in a patch of white and
burning glory, he pressed his lips to the crumbling
soil. He kissed the Earth. Oblivious of Stahl's
presence, or at least ignoring it, he worshipped.
And while he did so he heard that little sound he
loved so well — which more than any words or music
brought peace and joy, because it told his Passion all
complete. With his ears close to the earth he heard
it, yet at the same time heard it everywhere. For it
came with the falling of the waves upon the shore,
through the murmur of the rustling branches over-
head, and even across the whispering of the withered
grass about him. Deep down in the centre of the
mothering Earth he heard it too in faintly rising
pulse. It was the exquisite little piping on a reed —
the ancient fluting of the everlasting Pan. . . .
And when he rose he found that Stahl had turned
away and was gazing at the sea, as though he had not
' Doctor,' he cried, yet so softly it was a whisper
rather than a call, ' I heard it then again ; it's every-
where ! Oh, tell me that you hear it too ! '
Stahl turned and looked at him in silence. There
was a moisture in his eyes, and on his face a look of
softness that a woman might have worn.
' I've brought it back, you see, I've brought it
back. For that's the message — that's the sound and
music I must give to all the world. No words, no
book can tell it.' His hat was ofi^, his eyes were
shining, his voice broke with the passion of joy he
yearned to share yet knew so little how to impart.
' If I can pipe upon the flutes of Pan the millions all
298 THE CENTAUR xl
will listen, will understand, and — follow. Tell me,
oh, tell me, that you heard it too ! '
* My friend, my dear young friend,' the German
murmured in a voice of real tenderness, ' you heard
it truly — but you heard it in your heart. Few hear
the Pipes of Pan as you do. Few care to listen.
To-day the world is full of other sounds that drown
it. And even of those who hear,' he shrugged his
shoulders as he led him away towards the sea, — ' how
few will care to follow — how fewer still will dare^
And while they lay upon the beach and watched
the line of foam against their feet and saw the sea-
gulls curving idly in the blue and shining air, he
added underneath his breath — O'Malley hardly
caught the murmur of his words so low he
murmured them : —
'The simple life is lost for ever. It lies asleep in
the Golden Age, and only those who sleep and dream
can ever find it. If you would keep your joy, dream
on, my friend ! Dream on, but dream alone ! '
Summer blazed everywhere and the sea lay like a
blue pool of melted sky and sunshine. The summits
of the Caucasus soon faded to the east and north,
and to the south the wooded hills of the Black Sea
coast accompanied the ship in a line of wavy blue
that joined the water and the sky indistinguishably.
The first-class passengers were few ; O'Malley
hardly noticed their existence even. An American
engineer, building a railway in Turkey, came on
board at Trebizond ; there were one or two light
women on their way home from Baku, and the
attach^ of a foreign embassy from Teheran. But the
Irishman felt more in touch with the hundred peasant-
folk who joined the ship at Ineboli from the interior
of Asia Minor and were bound as third-class
emigrants for Marseilles and far America. Dark-
skinned, wild-eyed, ragged, very dirty, they had
never seen the sea before, and the sight of a porpoise
held them spellbound. They lived on the after-
deck, mostly cooking their own food, the women
and children sleeping beneath a large tarpaulin that
the sailors stretched for them across the width of
deck. At night they played their pipes and danced,
singing, shouting, and waving their arms — always the
same tune over and over again.
O'Malley watched them for hours together. He
300 THE CENTAUR xli
also watched the engineer, the over-dressed women,
the attache. He understood the difference between
them as he had never understood it before. He
understood the difficulty of his task as well. How
in the world could he ever explain a single syllable
of his message to these latter, or waken in them the
faintest echo of desire to know and listen. The
peasants, tnough all unconscious of the blinding
glory at their elbows, stood far nearer to the truth.
' Been further east, I suppose ^ ' the engineer
observed, one afternoon as the steamer lay off
Broussa, taking on a little extra cargo of walnut logs.
He looked admiringly at the Irishman's bronzed
skin. ' Take a better sun than this to put that
on ! '
He laughed in his breezy, vigorous way, and the
other laughed with him. Previous conversations
had already paved the way to a traveller's friendship,
and the American had taken to him.
' Up in the mountains,' he replied, ' camping out
and sleeping in the sun did it.*
' The Caucasus ! Ah, I'd like to get up there
myself a bit. I'm told they're a wonderful thing in
the mountain line.'
Scenery for him was evidently a commercial
commodity, or it was nothing. It was the most
up-to-date nation in the world that spoke — in the
van of civilization — representing the last word in
progress due to triumph over Nature.
O'Malley said he had never seen anything like
them. He described the trees, the flowers, the
tribes, the scenery in general ; he dwelt upon the
vast uncultivated spaces, the amazing fruitfulness of
the soil, the gorgeous beauty above all. * I'd like to
xLi THE CENTAUR 301
get the overcrowded cities of England and Europe
spread all over it,' he said with enthusiasm. ' There's
room for thousands there to lead a simple life close
to Nature, in health and peace and happiness. Even
your tired millionaires could escape their restless,
feverish worries, lay down their weary burden of
possessions, and enjoy the earth at last. The poor
would cease to be with us ; life become true and
beautiful again. . . .' He let it pour out of him,
building the scaffolding of his dream before him in
the air and filling it in with beauty.
The American listened in patience, watching the
walnut logs being towed through the water to the
side of the ship. From time to time he spat on
them, or into the sea. He let the beauty go com-
pletely past him.
' Great idea, that ! ' he interrupted at length.
* You're interested, I see, in socialism and communistic
schemes. There's money in them somewhere right
enough, if a man only could hit the right note at the
first go off. Take a bit of doing, though ! '
One of the women from Baku came up and
leaned upon the rails a little beyond them. The
sickly odour of artificial scent wafted down. The
attach^ strolled along the deck and ogled her.
' Get a few of that sort to draw the millionaires
in, eh .? ' he added vulgarly.
* Even those would come, yes,' said the Irishman
softly, realizing for the first time within his memory
that his gorge did not rise, ' for they too would
change, grow clean and sweet and beautiful.'
The engineer looked sharply into his face, un-
certain whether he had not missed a clever witticism
of his own kind. But O'Malley did not meet his
glance. His eyes were far away upon the snowy
302 THE CENTAUR xli
summit of Olympus where a flock of fleecy clouds
hung hovering like the hair of the eternal gods.
' They say there's timber going to waste that you
could get to the coast merely for the cost of drawing
it — Caucasian walnut, too, to burn,' the other
continued, getting on to safer ground, ' and labour's
dirt cheap. There's every sort of mineral too God
ever made. You could build light railways and run
the show by electricity. And water-power for the
asking. You'd have to get a Concession from
Russia first though,' he added, spitting down upon a
huge floating log in the clear sea underneath, ' and
Russia's got palms that want a lot of greasing. I
guess the natives, too, would take a bit of managing.'
The woman beyond had shifted several feet nearer,
and after a pause the Irishman found no words to
fill, his companion turned to address a remark to her.
O'Malley took the opening and moved away.
' Here's my card, anyway,' the American added,
handing him an over-printed bit of large pasteboard
from a fat pocket-book that bore his name and
address in silver on the outside. ' If you develop the
scheme and want a bit of money, count me in.'
He went to the other side of the vessel and
watched the peasants on the lower deck. Their dirt
seemed nothing by comparison. It was only on
their clothes and bodies. The odour of this un-
washed humanity was almost sweet and wholesome.
It cleansed the sickly taint of that other scent from
his palate ; it washed his mind of thoughts as well.
He stood there long in dreaming silence, while
the sunlight on Olympus turned from gold to rose,
and the sea took on the colours of the fading sky.
He watched a dark Kurd baby sliding down the
tarpaulin. A kitten was playing with a loose end of
xLi THE CENTAUR 303
rope too heavy for it to move. Further off a huge
fellow with bared chest and the hands of a colossus
sat on a pile of canvas playing softly on his wooden
pipes. The dark hair fell across his eyes, and a
group of women listened idly while they busied
themselves with the cooking of the evening meal.
Immediately beneath him a splendid-eyed young
woman crammed a baby to her naked breast. The
kitten left the rope and played with the tassel of her
And as he heard those pipes and watched the
grave, untamed, strong faces of those wild peasant
men and women, he understood that, low though they
might be in scale of evolution, there was yet absent
from them the touch of that deteriorating something
which civihzation painted into those other counte-
nances. But whether the word he sought was de-
gradation or whether it was shame, he could not tell.
In all they did, the way they moved, their dignity
and independence, there was this something, he felt,
that bordered on being impressive. Their wants
were few, their worldly possessions in a bundle, yet
they had this thing that set them in a place apart,
if not above, these others : — beyond that simpering
attache for all his worldly diplomacy, that engineer
with brains and skill, those painted women with their
clever playing upon the feelings and desires of their
kind. There was this difference that set the ragged
dirty crew in a proud and quiet atmosphere that made
them seem almost distinguished by comparison, and
certainly more desirable. Rough and untutored
though they doubtless were, they still possessed
unspoilt that deeper and more elemental nature that
bound them closer to the Earth. It needed training,
guidance, purifying ; yes ; but, in the last resort, was
304 THE CENTAUR xli
it not of greater spiritual significance and value than
the mode of comparatively recently-developed reason
by which Civilization had produced these other types ?
He watched them long. The sun sank out of sight,
the sea turned dark, ten thousand stars shone softly
in the sky, and while the steamer swung about and
made for peaked Andros and the coast of Greece,
he still stood on in reverie and wonder. The
wings of his great Dream stirred mightily . . .
and he saw pale millions of men and women trooping
through the gates of horn and ivory into that Garden
where they should find peace and happiness in clean
simplicity close to the Earth. . . .
There followed four days then of sea, Greece left
behind, Messina and the Lipari Islands past, and the
blue outline of Sardinia and Corsica began to keep
pace with them as they neared the narrow straits of
Bonifacio between them. The passengers came up
to watch the rocky desolate shores slip by so close,
and Captain Burgenfelder was on the bridge.
Grey-headed rocks rose everywhere close about
the ship ; overhead the seagulls cried and circled ; no
vegetation was visible on either shore, no houses, no
abode of man — nothing but the lighthouses, then
miles of deserted rock dressed in those splendours of
the sun's good-night. The dinner-gong had sounded
but the sight was too magnificent to leave, for the
setting sun floated on an emblazoned sea and stared
straight against them in level glory down the narrow
passage. Unimaginable colours painted sky and
wave. The ruddy cliffs of bleak loneliness rose from
a bed of flame. Soft airs fanned the cheeks with
welcome coolness after the fierce heat of the day.
There was a scent of wild honey in the air borne
from the purple uplands far, far away.
' I wonder, oh, I wonder, if they realized that a
god is passing close . . . ! ' the Irishman murmured
with a rising of the heart, ' and that here is a great
mood of the Earth-Consciousness inviting them to
3o6 THE CENTAUR xlii
peace ! Or do they merely see a yellow sun that dips
beneath a violet sea . . . ? '
The washing of the water past the steamer's sides
caught away the rest of the half-whispered words. He
remembered that host of many thousand heads that
bowed in silence while a god swept by. ... It was
almost a shock to hear a voice replying close beside
him : —
' Come to my cabin when you're ready. My
windows open to the west. We can be alone together.
We can have there what food we need. You would
prefer it perhaps ? '
He felt the touch of that sympathetic hand
upon his shoulder, and bent his head to signify
For a moment, face to face with that superb sun-
set, he had known a deep and utter peace in the vast
bosom of this greater soul about him. Her conscious-
ness again had bruised and fringed his own. Across
that delicately divided threshold the beauty and the
power of the gods had poured in a flood into his
being. And only there was peace, only there was
joy, only there was the death of those ancient yearn-
ings that tortured his little personal and separate
existence. The return to the world was aching pain
again. The old loneliness that seemed more than he
could bear swept icily through him, contracting life
and freezing every spring of joy. For in that single
instant of return he felt pass into him a loneliness of
the whole travailing world, the loneliness of countless
centuries, the loneliness of all the races of the Earth
who were exiled and had lost the way.
Too deep it lay for words or tears or sighs. The
doctor's invitation came most opportunely. And
presently in silence he turned his back upon that
xLii THE CENTAUR 307
opal sky of dream from which the sun had gone, and
walked slowly down the deck towards Stahl's cabin.
' If only I can share it with them,' he thought as
he went ; ' if only men will listen, if only they will
come. To keep it all to myself, to dream alone, will
And as he stood before the door it seemed he
heard, wild rushing through the sky, the tramping of
a thousand hoofs, a roaring of the wind, the joy
of that free, torrential passage with the Earth. He
turned the handle and entered the cosy room where
weeks before they held the inquest on the little empty
tenement of flesh, remembering how that other figure
had once stood where he now stood — part of the
sunrise, part of the sea, part of the morning winds.
They had their meal almost in silence, while the
glow of sunset filled the cabin through the western
row of port-holes, and when it was over Stahl made
the coffee as of old and lit the familiar black cigar.
Slowly O'Malley's pain and restlessness gave way
before the other's soothing quiet. He had never
known him before so calm and gentle, so sympathetic,
almost tender. The usual sarcasm seemed veiled in
sadness ; there was no irony in the voice, nor mockery
in the eyes.
Then to the Irishman it came suddenly that all
these days while he had been lost in dreaming the
doctor had kept him as of old under close observation.
The completeness of his reverie had concealed from
him this steady scrutiny. He had been oblivious to
the fact that Stahl had all the time been watching,
investigating, keenly examining. Abruptly he now
And then Stahl spoke. His tone was winning,
3o8 THE CENTAUR xlii
his manner frank and inviting. But it was the sadness
about him that won O'Malley's confidence so wholly.
' I can guess,' he said, * something of the dream
you've brought with you from those mountains. I
can understand — more, perhaps, than you imagine,
and I can sympathize — more than you think possible.
Tell me about it fully — if you can. I see your heart
is very full, and in the telling you will find relief, I
am not hostile, as you sometimes feel. Tell me, my
dear, young clear-eyed friend. Tell me your vision
and your hope. Perhaps I might even help . . .
for there may be things that I could also tell to you
Something in the choice of words, none of which
offended ; in the atmosphere and setting, no detail
of which jarred ; and in the degree of balance between
utterance and silence his world of inner forces just
then knew, combined to make the invitation irresist-
ible. Moreover, he had wanted to tell it all these
days. Stahl was already half convinced. Stahl would
surely understand and help him. It was the psycho-
logical moment for confession. The two men rose
in the same moment, Stahl to lock the cabin doors
against interruption, O'Malley to set their chairs more
closely side by side so that talking should be easiest.
And then without demur or hesitation he opened
his heart to this other and let the floodgates of his
soul swing wide. He told the vision and he told the
dream ; he told his hope as well. And the story of
his passion, filled in with pages from those note-books
he ever carried in his pocket, still lasted when the
western glow had faded from the sky and the thick-
sown stars shone down upon the gliding steamer.
The hush of night lay soft upon the world before he
xLii THE CENTAUR 309
He told the thing complete, much, I imagine, as
he told it all to me upon the roof of that apartment
building and in the dingy Soho restaurant. He
told it without reservations — his life-long yearnings :
the explanation brought by the presence of the silent
stranger upon the outward voyage : the journey to
the Garden : the vision that all life — from gods to
flowers, from men to mountains — lay contained in
the conscious Being of the Earth, that Beauty was
but glimpses of her essential nakedness ; and that
salvation of the world's disease of modern life was to
be found in a general return to the simplicity of
Nature close against her mothering heart. He told
it all — in words that his passionate joy chose fault-
And Heinrich Stahl in silence listened. He asked
no single question. He made no movement in
his chair. His black cigar went out before the half
of it was smoked. The darkness hid his face im-
And no one came to interrupt. The murmur of
the speeding steamer, and occasional footsteps on the
deck as passengers passed to and fro in the cool of
the night, were the only sounds that broke the music
of that incurable idealist's impassioned story.
And then at length there came a change of voice
across the cabin. The Irishman had finished. He
sank back in the deep leather chair, exhausted
physically, but with the exultation of his mighty
hope still pouring at full strength through his heart.
For he had ventured further than ever before and
had spoken of a possible crusade — a crusade that
should preach peace and happiness to every living
And Dr. Stahl, in a voice that showed how deeply
he was moved, asked quietly : —
' By leading the nations back to Nature you think
they shall advance to Truth at last ? '
' With time,' was the reply. ' The first step lies
there : — in changing the direction of the world's
activities, changing it from the transient Outer to the
eternal Inner. In the simple life, external possessions
unnecessary and recognized as vain, the soul would
turn within and seek Reality. Only a tiny section
of humanity has time to do it now. There is no
leisure. Civilization means acquirement for the
body : it ought to mean development for the soul.
Once sweep aside the trash and rubbish men seek
outside themselves to-day, and the wings of their
smothered souls would stir again. Consciousness
would expand. Nature would draw them first.
xLiii THE CENTAUR 311
They would come to feel the Earth as I did. Self
would disappear, and with it this false sense of separ-
ateness. The greater consciousness would waken in
them. The peace and joy and blessedness of inner
growth would fill their lives. But, first, this childish
battling to the death for external things must cease,
and Civilization stand revealed for the bleak and
empty desolate thing it really is. It leads away from
God and from the things that are eternal.'
The German made no answer ; O'Malley ceased
to speak ; a long silence fell between them. Then,
presently, Stahl relighted his cigar, and lapsing into
his native tongue — always a sign with him of deepest
seriousness — he began to talk.
' YouVe honoured me,' he said, ' with a great con-
fidence ; and I am deeply, deeply grateful. You
have told your inmost dream — the thing men find
it hardest of all to speak about.* He felt in the
darkness for his companion's hand and held it tightly
for a moment. He made no other comment upon what
he had heard. ' And in return — in some small way
of return,' he continued, ' I may ask you to listen to
something of my own, something of possible interest.
No one has ever known it from my lips. Only, in
our earlier conversations on the outward voyage, I
hinted at it once or twice. I sometimes warned
' I remember. You said he'd " get " me, " win "
me over — " appropriation " was the word you used.'
' I suggested caution, yes ; urged you not to let
yourself go too completely ; told you he represented
danger to yourself, and to humanity as it is organized
*And all the rest,' put in O'Malley a shade
impatiently. ' I remember perfectly.'
312 THE CENTAUR xliii
* Because I knew what I was talking about.'
The doctor's voice came across the darkness some-
what ominously. And then he added in a louder
tone, evidently sitting forward as he said it : ' For
the thing that has happened to yourself as I foresaw
it would, had already almost happened to me too ! '
' To you, doctor, too ? ' exclaimed the Irishman
in the moment's pause that followed.
' I saved myself just in time — by getting rid of
' You discharged him from the hospital, because
you were afraid ! ' He said it sharply as though an
instant of the old resentment had flashed up.
By way of answer Stahl rose from his chair and
abruptly turned up the electric lamp upon the desk
that faced them across the cabin. Evidently he pre-
ferred the light. O'Malley saw that his face was
white and very grave. He grasped for the first time
that the man was speaking professionally. The truth
came driving next behind it — that Stahl regarded
him as a patient.
' Please go on, doctor,' he said, keenly on the
watch. ' I'm deeply interested.' The wings of his
great dream still bore him too far aloft for him to
feel more than the merest passing annoyance at his
discovery. Resentment had gone too. Sadness and
disappointment for an instant touched him perhaps,
but momentarily. In the end he felt sure that Stahl
would stand at his side, completely won over and
* You had a similar experience to my own, you
say,' he urged him. ' 1 am all eagerness and sym-
pathy to hear.'
' We'll talk in the open air,' the doctor answered,
xLiii . THE CENTAUR 313
and ringing the bell for the steward to clear away,
he drew his companion out to the deserted decks.
They moved towards the bows, past the sleeping
peasants. The stars were mirrored in a glassy sea
and towards the north the hills of Corsica stood
faintly outlined in the sky. It was already long
' Yes, a similar thing nearly happened to me,' he
resumed as they settled themselves against a coil of
rope where only the murmur of the washing sea
could reach them, *and might have happened to
others too. Inmates of that big Krankenhaus
were variously affected. My action, tardy I must
admit, saved myself and them.'
And the German then told his story as a man
might tell of his escape from some grave disaster. In
the emphatic sentences of his native language he told
it, congratulating himself all through. The Russian
had almost won him over, gained possession of his
heart and mind, persuaded him, but in the end had
failed — because the other ran away. It was like
hearing a man describe an attempt to draw him into
Heaven, then boast of his escape. His caution and
his judgment, as he put it, saved him, but to the
listening Celt it rather seemed that his compromise it
was that damned him. The Kingdom of Heaven is
hard to enter, for Stahl had possessions not of the
wood and metal order, but possessions of the brain
and reason he was too proud to forego completely.
They kept him out.
With increasing sadness, too, he heard it ; for
here he realized was the mental attitude of an
educated, highly civilized man to-day — a representa-
tive type regarded by the world as highest. It was
this he had to face. Moreover Stahl was more than
314 THE CENTAUR xliii
merely educated, he was understandingly sympathetic,
meeting the great dream halfway ; seeing in it possi-
bilities ; admitting its high beauty, and even some-
times speaking of it with hope and a touch of
enthusiasm. Its originator none the less he regarded
as a reactionary dreamer, an unsettling and disordered
influence, a patient, if not even something worse !
Stahl's voice and manner were singular while he
told it all, revealing one moment the critical mind
that analysed and judged, and the next an enthusiasm
almost of the mystic. Alternately, like the man and
woman of those quaint old weather-glasses, each
peered out and showed a face, the reins of compro-
mise yet ever seeking to hold them well in leash and
drive them together.
Hardly, it seems, had the strange Russian been
under his care a week before he passed beneath the
sway of his curious personality and experienced the
attack of singular emotions upon his heart and mind.
He described at first the man's arrival, telling it
with the calm and balanced phrases a doctor uses
when speaking merely of a patient who had stirred
his interest. He first detailed the method of sugges-
tion he had used to revive the lapsed memory — and
its utter failure. Then he passed on to speak of him
more generally : but briefly and condensed.
' The man,' he said, ' was so engaging, so docile,
his personality altogether so attractive and mysteri-
ous, that I took the case myself instead of delegating
it to my assistants. All efforts to trace his past
collapsed. It was as if he had drifted into that little
hotel out of the night of time. Of madness there
was no evidence whatever. The association of ideas
in his mind, though limited, was logical and rigid.
His health was perfect, barring strange, sudden fever ;
xLiii THE CENTAUR 315
his vitality tremendous ; yet he ate most sparingly
and the only food he touched was fruit and milk
and vegetables. Meat made him sick, the huge
frame shuddered when he saw it. And from all the
human beings in the place with whom he came in
contact he shrank with a kind of puzzled dismay.
With animals, most oddly it seemed, he sought
companionship ; he would run to the window if a
dog barked, or to hear a horse's hoofs ; a Persian cat
belonging to one of the nurses never left his side, and
I have seen the trees in the yard outside his window
thick with birds, and even found them in the room
and on the sill, flitting about his very person,
unafraid and singing.
' With me, as with the attendants, his speech was
almost nil — laconic words in various languages,
clipped phrases that sometimes combined Russian,
French, or German, other tongues as well.
' But, strangest of all, with animal life he seemed
to hold this kind of communication that was in-
telligible both to himself and them. Animals cer-
tainly were "aware" of him. It was not speech. It
ran in a deep, continuous murmur like a droning,
humming sound of wind. I took the hint thus
faintly offered. I gave him his freedom in the yards
and gardens. The open air and intercourse with
natural life was what he craved. The sadness and
the air of puzzled fretting then left his face, his eyes
grew bright, his whole presentment happier ; he ran
and laughed and even sang. The fever that had
troubled him all vanished. Often myself I took the
place of nurse or orderly to watch him, for the man's
presence more than interested me: it gave me a
renewed sense of life that was exhilarating, invigor-
ating, delightful. And in his appearance, meanwhile,
3i6 THE CENTAUR xliii
something that was not size or physical measurement
turned — tremendous.
' A part of me that was not mind — a sort of for-
gotten instinct blindly groping — came of its own
accord to regard him as some loose fragment of a
natural, cosmic life that had somehow blundered
down into a human organism it sought to use. . . .
' And then it was for the first time I recognized
the spell he had cast upon me ; for, when the Com-
mittee decided there was no reason to keep him
longer, I urged that he should stay. Making a
special plea, I took him as a private patient of my
own. I kept him under closer personal observation
than ever before. I needed him. Something deep
within me, something undivined hitherto, called out
into life by his presence, could not do without him.
This new craving, breakingly wild and sweet, awoke
in my blood and cried for him. His presence
nourished it in me. Most insidiously it attacked
me. It stirred deep down among the roots of my
being. It " threatened my personality " seems the
best way I can put it ; for, turning a critical analysis
upon it, I discovered that it was an undermining and
revolutionary change going steadily forward in my
character. Its growth had hitherto been secret.
When I first recognized its presence, the thing was
already strong. For a long time, it had been
' And the change in a word — you will grasp my
meaning from the shortest description of essentials
— was this : that ambition left me, ordinary desire
crumbled, the outer world men value so began to
' And in their place .? ' cried O'Malley breath-
lessly, interrupting for the first time.
xLiir THE CENTAUR 317
' Came a rushing, passionate desire to escape from
cities and live for beauty and simplicity " in the
wilderness " ; to taste the life he seemed to know ;
to go out blindly with him into woods and desolate
places, and be mixed and blended with the loveliness
of Earth and Nature. This was the first thing I
knew. It was like an expansion of my normal
world — almost an extension of consciousness. It
somehow threatened my sense of personal identity.
And — it made me hesitate.'
O'Malley caught the tremor in his voice. Even
in the telling of it the passion plucked at him, for
here, as ever, he stood on the border-line of com-
promise, his heart tempting him towards salvation,
his brain and reason tugging at the brakes.
' The sham and emptiness of modern life, its drab
vulgarity, the unworthiness of its very ideals stood
appallingly revealed before some inner eye just open-
ing. I felt shaken to the core of what had seemed
hitherto my very solid and estimable self. How the
man thus so powerfully affected me lies beyond all
intelligible explanation. To use the obvious catch-
word " hypnotism " is to use a toy and stop a leak
with paper. For his influence was unconsciously
exerted. He cast no net of clever, persuasive words
about my thought. Out of that deep, strange silence
of the man it somehow came. His actions and his
simple happiness of face and manner — both in some
sense the raw material of speech perhaps — may have
operated as potently suggestive agents ; but no
adequate causes to justify the result, apart from the
fantastic theories I have mentioned, have ever yet
come within the range of my understanding. I can
only give you the undeniable effects.'
* Your sense of extended consciousness,* asked
31 8 THE CENTAUR xliii
his listener, ' was this continuous, once it had
begun ? *
' It came in patches,' Stahl continued. * My
normal, everyday self was thus able to check it.
While it derided, commiserated this everyday self,
the latter stood in dread of it and even awe. My
training, you see, regarded it as symptom of dis-
order, a beginning of unbalance that might end in
insanity, the thin wedge of a dissociation of the
personality Morton Prince and others have described.'
His speech grew more and more jerky, even
incoherent, evidently the material had not even now
been fully reduced to order in his mind.
'Among other curious symptoms I soon estab-
lished that this subtle spreading of my consciousness
grew upon me especially during sleep. The business
of the day distracted, scattered it. On waking in the
morning, as with the physical fatigue that comes
towards the closing of the day, it was strongest.
' And so, in order to examine it closely when in
fullest manifestation, I came to spend the nights
with him. I would creep in while he slept and stay
till morning, alternately sleeping and waking myself.
I watched the two of us together. I also watched
the " two " in me. And thus it was I made the
further strange discovery that the influence he exerted
on me was strongest while he slept. It is best
described by saying that in his sleep I was conscious
that he sought to draw me with him — away some-
where into his own wonderful world — the state or
region, that is, where he manifested completely instead
of partially as I knew him here. His personality
was a channel somewhere out into a living, conscious
Nature. . . .'
'Only,' interrupted O'Malley, 'you felt that to
xLiii THE CENTAUR 319
yield and go involved some nameless inner catastrophe,
and so resisted ? ' He chose his phrase with purpose.
' Because I discovered/ vi^as the pregnant answer,
given steadily while he watched his listener closely
through the darkness, ' that this desire for escape the
man had wakened in me was nothing more or less
than the desire to leave the world, to leave the condi-
tions that prevented — in fact to leave the body. My
discontent with modern life had gone as far as that.
It was the birth of the suicidal mania.'
The pause that followed the words, on the part of
Dr. Stahl at any rate, was intentional. O'Malley
held his peace. The men shifted their places on the
coil of rope, for both were cramped and stiff with the
lengthy session. For a minute or two they leaned
over the bulwarks and watched the phosphorescent
foam in silence. The blue mountainous shores slipped
past in shadowy line against the stars. But when
they sat down again their relative positions were not
what they had been before. Dr. Stahl had placed
himself between his listener and the sea. And
O'Malley did not let the manoeuvre escape him.
Smiling to himself he noticed it. Just as surely he
noticed, too, that the whole recital was being told
him with a purpose.
' You really need not be afraid,' he could not
resist saying. ' The idea of escape that way has
never even come to me at all. And, anyhow, I've
far too much on hand first in telling the world my
message.' He laughed in the silence that took his
words, for Stahl said nothing and made as though he
had not heard. But the Irishman understood that it
was in the spirit of feeble compromise that danger
lay — if danger there was at all, and he himself was far
320 THE CENTAUR xliii
beyond such weakness. His eye was single and his
body full of light, and the faith that plays with
mountains had made him whole. Return to Nature
for him involved no denial of human life, nor
depreciation of human interests, but only a revolu-
tionary shifting of values.
' And it was one night while he slept and I
watched him in the little room,' resumed the German
as though there had been no interruption, ' I noticed
first so decisively this growing of a singular size about
him 1 have already mentioned, and grasped its
meaning. For the bulk of the man while growing
— emerging, rather, I should say — assumed another
shape than his own. It was not my eyes that saw
it. I saw him as he felt himself to be. The creature's
personality, his essential inner being, was acting
directly upon my own. His influence was at me from
another point or angle. First the emotions, then
the senses you sec. It was a finely organized attack.
' I definitely understood at last that my mind was
affected — and proved it too, for the instant effort I
made at recovery resulted in my seeing him normal
again. The size and shape retreated the moment I
O'Malley noticed how the speaker's voice lingered
over the phrase. Again he knew the intention of the
pause that followed. He held his peace, however,
' Nor was sight the only sense affected,' Stahl
continued, * for smell and hearing also brought their
testimony. Through all but touch, indeed, the
hallucination attacked me. For sometimes at night
while I sat up watching in the little room, there
rose outside the open window in the yards and
gardens a sound of tramping, a distant roaring as of
xLiii THE CENTAUR 321
voices in a rising wind, a rushing, hollow murmur,
confused and deep like that of forests, or the swift
passage of a host of big birds across the sky. I
heard it, both in the air and on the ground — this
tramping on the lawns, this curious shaking of the
atmosphere. And with it at the same time a
sharp and mingled perfume that made me think of
earth and leaves, of flowers after rain, of plains and
open spaces, most singular of all — of animals and
' Before the firm denial of my mind, they vanished,
just as the change of form had vanished. But both
left me weaker than they found me, more tender to
attack. Moreover, I understood most plainly, that
they emanated all from him. These *' emanations "
came, too, chiefly, as I mentioned, whilst he slept.
In sleep, it seemed, he set them free. The slumber
of the body disengaged them. And then the instinct
came to warn me — presenting itself with the authority
of an unanswerable intuition — the realization, namely,
that if, for a single moment in his presence, I slept
the changes would leap forward in my own being,
and I should join him.'
' Escape ! Know freedom in a larger conscious-
ness ! ' cried the other.
' And for a man of my point of view and training
to have permitted such a conviction at all,' he went
on, the interruption utterly ignored again, * proves
how far along the road I had already travelled
without knowing it. Only at the time I was not
aware of this. It was the shock of full discovery
later that brought me to my senses, when, seeking
to withdraw, — I found I could not.'
' And so you ran away.' It came out bluntly
enough, with a touch of scorn but ill concealed.
322 THE CENTAUR xliii
*We discharged him. But before that came
there was more I have to tell you — if you still care
to hear it.' ,
' I'm not tired, if that's what you mean. I could
listen all night, as far as that goes.'
He rose to stretch his legs a moment, and Stahl
rose too — instantly. Together they leaned over the
bulwarks. The German's hat was off and the air
made by the steamer's passage drew his beard out.
The warm soft wind brought odours of sea and
shore. It caressed their faces, then passed on across
those sleeping peasants on the lower deck. The
masts and rigging swung steadily against the host
' Before I thus knew myself half caught,' continued
the doctor, standing now close enough beside him
for actual contact, ' and found it difficult to get away,
other things had happened, things that confirmed the
change so singularly begun in me. They happened
everywhere ; confirmation came from many quarters ;
though slight enough, they filled in all the gaps and
crevices, strengthened the joints, and built the huge
illusion round me all complete until it held me like
* And they are difficult to tell. Only, indeed, to
yourself who underwent a similar experience up there
in the mountains, could they bring much meaning.
You had the same temptation and you — weathered
the same storm.' He caught O'Malley's arm a
moment and held it. ' You escaped this madness
just as I did, and you will realize what I mean when
I say that the sensation of losing my sense of per-
sonal identity became so dangerously, so seductively
strong. The feeling of extended consciousness became
delicious — too delicious to resist. A kind of pagan
xLiii THE CENTAUR 323
joy and exultation known to some in early youth,
but put away with the things of youth, possessed
me. In the presence of this other's soul, so strangely
powerful in its silence and simplicity, I felt as though
I touched new sources of life. I tapped them.
They poured down and flooded me — with dreams
— dreams that could really haunt — with unsettling
thoughts of glory and delight beyond the body. I
got clean away into Nature. I felt as though some
portion of me just awakening reached out across him
into rain and sunshine, far up into the sweet and
starry sky — as a tree growing out of a thicket that
chokes its lower part finds light and freedom at
' It caught you badly, doctor,' O'Malley mur-
mured. ' The gods came close ! '
'So badly that I loathed the prisoned darkness
that held me so thickly in the body. I longed to
know my being all dispersed through Nature,
scattered with dew and wind, shining with the star-
light and the sun. And the manner of escape I
hinted to you a little while ago came to seem right
and necessary. Lawful it seemed, and obvious.
The mania literally obsessed me, though still I tried
to hide it even from myself , . . and struggled in
' You spoke just now of other things that came to
confirm it,' the Irishman said while the other paused
to take breath. All this he knew. He grew weary
of Stahl's clever labouring the point that it was
madness. A little knowledge is ever dangerous, and
he saw so clearly why the hesitation of the merely
intellectual man had led him into error. ' Did you
mean that others acknowledged this influence as well
as yourself .'' '
324 THE CENTAUR xliii
' You shall read that for yourself to-morrow,'
came the answer, * in the detailed report I drew up
afterwards ; it is far too long to tell you now. But,
I may mention something of it. That breaking out
of patients was a curious thing, their trying to escape,
their dreams and singing, their efforts sometimes to
approach his room, their longing for the open and
the gardens ; the deep, prolonged entrancing of a
few ; the sounds of rushing, tramping that they, too,
heard, the violence of some, the silent ecstasy of
others. The thing may find its parallel, perhaps, in
the collective mania that sometimes afflicts religious
communities, in monasteries or convents. Only here
there was no preacher and eloquent leader to induce
hysteria — nothing but that silent dynamo of power,
gentle and winning as a little child, a being who could
not put a phrase together, exerting his potent spell
unconsciously, and chiefly while he slept.'
' For the phenomena almost without exception
came in the night, and often at their fullest
strength, as afterwards reported to me, while I
dozed in his room and watched beside his motionless
and slumbering form. Oh, and there was more as
well, much more, as you shall read. The stories
my assistants brought me, the tales of frightened
nurse and warder, the amazing yarns the porter
stammered out, of strangers who had rung the bell
at dawn, trying to push past him through the door,
saying they were messengers and had been summoned,
sent for, had to come, — large, curious, windy figures,
or, as he sometimes called them with unconscious
humour, * like creatures out of fairy books or
circuses' that always vanished as suddenly as they
came. Making every allowance for excitement and
exaggeration, the tales were strange enough, I can
xLiii THE CENTAUR 325
assure you, and the way many of the patients knew
their visions intensified, their illusions doubly
strengthened, their efforts even to destroy them-
selves in many cases almost more than the staff
could deal with — all this brought the matter to a
climax and made my duty very plain at last.'
' And the effect upon yourself — at its worst ? '
asked his listener quietly.
Stahl sighed wearily a little as he answered with a
new-found sadness in his tone.
' I've told you briefly that,' he said ; * repetition
cannot strengthen it. The worthlessness of the
majority of human aims to-day expresses it best —
what you have called yourself the " horror of
civilization." The vanity of all life's modern, so-
called up-to-date tendencies for outer, mechanical
developments. A wild, mad beauty streaming from
that man's personality over-ran the whole place and
caught the lot of us, myself especially, with a lust
for simple, natural things, and with a passion for
spiritual beauty to accompany them. Fame, wealth,
position seemed the shadows then, and something
else it's hard to name announced itself as the
substance. ... I wanted to clear out and live with
Nature, to know simplicity, unselfish purposes, a
golden state of childlike existence close to dawns
and dew and running water, cared for by woods and
blessed by all the winds. . . .' He paused again for
breath, then added : —
* And that's just where the mania caught at me so
cunningly — till I saw it and called a halt.'
' For the thing I sought, the thing he knew, and
perhaps remembered, was not possible in the body.
It was a spiritual state '
326 THE CENTAUR xliii
' Or to be known subjectively ! ' O'Malley
' I am no lotos-eater by nature,' he went on with
energy, *and so I fought and conquered it. But
first, I tell you, it came upon me like a tempest — a
hurricane of wonder and delight. I've always held,
like yourself perhaps, that civilization brings its own
army of diseases, and that the few illnesses known to
ruder savage races can be cured by simple means
the earth herself supplies. And along this line of
thought the thing swept into me — the line of my
own head- learning. This was natural enough ;
natural enough, too, that it thus at first deceived me.
* For the quack cures of history come to this —
herb simples and the rest ; only we know them now
as sun-cure, water-cure, open-air cure, old Kneipp,
sea-water, and a hundred others. Doctors have
never swarmed before as they do now, and these
artificial diseases civilization brings in such quantity
seemed all at once to mean the abeyance of some
central life or power men ought to share with —
Nature. . . . You shall read it all in my written
report. I merely wish to show you now how the
insidious thing got at me along the line of my
special knowledge. I saw the truth that priests and
doctors are the only possible and necessary " pro-
fessions " in the world, and — that they should be
really but a single profession. . . .'
He drew suddenly back with a kind of jerk. It
was as though he realized abruptly that he had said
too much — had overdone it. He took his companion
by the arm and led him down the decks.
As they passed the bridge the Captain called out
a word of welcome to them ; and his jolly, boisterous
laugh ran down the wind. The American engineer
came from behind a dark corner, almost running
into them ; his face was flushed. ' It's like a
furnace below,' he said in his nasal familiar manner ;
' too hot to sleep. I've run up for a gulp of air.'
He made as though he would join them.
' The wind's behind us, yes,' replied the doctor in a
different tone, ' and there's no draught.' With a
gesture, half bow, half dismissal, he made even this
thick-skinned member of ' the greatest civilization on
earth ' understand he was not wanted. And they
turned at the cabin door, O'Malley a moment
wondering at the admirable dignity with which the
' little ' man had managed the polite dismissal.
Himself, perhaps, he would not have minded the
diversion. He was a little weary of the German's
long recital. The confession had not been complete,
he felt. Much had been held back. It was not
altogether straightforward. The dishonesty which
hides in compromise peeped through it everywhere.
328 THE CENTAUR xliv
And the incoherence of the latter part had almost
bored him. For it was, he easily divined, a studied
incoherence. It was meant to touch a similar
weakness in himself — if there. But it was not there.
He saw through the whole manoeuvre. Stahl
wished to warn and save him by showing that the
experience they had partly shared was nothing but a
strange mental disorder. He wished to force in this
subtle way his own interpretation of it upon his
friend. Yet at the same time the intuitive Irishman
discerned that other tendency in the man which
would so gladly perhaps have welcomed a different
explanation, and even in some fashion did actually
O'Malley smiled inwardly as he watched him
prepare the coffee as of old. And patiently he
waited for the rest that was to come. In a certain
sense it all was useful. It would be helpful later.
This was an attitude he would often have to face
when he returned to civilized life and tried to tell
his Message to. the thinking, educated men of to-day
— the men he must win over somehow to his dream
— the men, without whose backing, no Movement
could hope to meet with even a measure of success.
' So, like myself,' said Stahl, as he carefully tended
the flame of the spirit-lamp between them, ' you
have escaped by the skin of your teeth, as it were.
And I congratulate you — heartily.'
' I thank you,' said the other drily.
' You write your version now, and I'll write
mine — indeed it is already almost finished — then
we'll compare notes. Perhaps we might even
publish them together.'
He poured out the fragrant coffee. They faced
each other across the little table. But O'Malley did
xLiv THE CENTAUR 329
not take the bait. He wished to hear the balance
his companion stiJl might tell.
And presently he asked for it.
' With the discharge of your patient the trouble
ceased at once, then .'' '
* Comparatively soon. It gradually subsided, yes.'
* And as regards yourself .f* '
' I came back to my senses. 1 recovered my
control. The insubordinate impulses I had known
retired.' He smiled as he sipped his coffee. ' You
see me now,' he added, looking his companion
steadily in the eyes, * a sane and commonplace ship's
' I congratulate you — '
' Viel Dank.' He bowed.
' On what you missed, yet almost accomplished,'
the other finished. * You might have known, like
me, the cosmic consciousness ! You might have met
the gods ! '
' In a strait-waistcoat,' the doctor added with a
They laughed at one another across their coffee
cups as once before they had laughed across their
glasses of Kakhetian wine — two eternally antagonistic
types that will exist as long as life itself.
But, contrary to his expectations, the German
had little more to tell. He mentioned how the
experience had led his mind into strange and novel
reading in his desire to know what other minds
might have to offer by way of explanation, even the
most fanciful and far-fetched. He told, though
very briefly, how he had picked up Fechner among
others, and carefully studied his * poetic theories,'
and read besides the best accounts of * spiritistic '
phenomena, as also of the rarer states of hysteria.
330 THE CENTAUR xliv
double-consciousness, multiple personality, and even
those looser theories which suggest that a portion of
the human constitution called ' astral ' or ' etheric '
may escape from the parent centre and, carrying
with it the subtler forces of desire and yearning,
construct a vivid subjective state of mind which is
practically its Heaven of hope and longing all ful-
He did not, however, betray the results upon
himself of all this curious reading and study, nor
mention what he found of truth or probability in it
all. He merely quoted books and authors, in at
least three languages, that stretched in a singular and
catholic array from Plato and the Neo-Platonists
across the ages to Myers, Du Prel, Flournoy, Lodge,
and Morton Prince.
Out of the lot, perhaps, — O'Malley gathered it
by inference rather than from actual statement, from
fragments of their talks upon the outward voyage
more than from anything let fall just then — Fechner
had proved the most persuasive to this man's contra-
dictory and original mind. It certainly seemed, at
least, as if he knew some secret sympathetic leaning
towards the idea that consciousness and matter were
inseparable, and that a Cosmic Consciousness ' of
sorts ' might pertain to the Earth as, equally, to all
the other stars and planets. The Urwelt idea, he
so often referred to, had seized a part of his imagina-
tion — that, at least, was clear.
The Irishman drank it all in, but he was too
exhausted now to argue, and too full besides to ask
questions. His natural volubility forsook him. He
let the doctor have his say without interruptions.
He took the warnings with the rest of it. Nothing
the other said had changed him.
xLiv THE CENTAUR 331
It was not the first sunrise they had watched
together, and as they took the morning air on deck
once more, Corsica rising like a dream the night had
left behind her on the sea, he listened with fainter
interest to the German's concluding sentences.
* At any rate you now understand why on that
other voyage I was so eager to watch you with your
friend, so keen to separate you, to prevent your
sleeping with him, and at the same time so desirous
to see his influence upon you at close quarters ; and
also — why I always understood so well what was
going on both outwardly and within.'
O'MaUey quietly reiterated the belief he still held
in the power of his own dream.
* I shall go home and give my message to the
world,' was what he said quietly. * I think it's true.'
' It's better to keep silent,' was the answer, ' for,
even if true, the world is not ready yet to listen. It
will evaporate, you'll find, in the telling. You'll find
there's nothing to tell. Besides, a dream like yours
must dawn on all at once, and not on merely one.
No one will understand you.'
' I can but try.'
* You will reach no men of action ; and few of
intellect. You will merely stuff the dreamers who
are already stuffed enough. What is the use, I ask
you } What is the use } '
' It will set the world on fire for simplicity,' the
other murmured, knowing the great sweet passion
flame within him as he watched the sun come slowly
out of the rosy sea. ' All the use in the world.'
* None,' was the laconic answer.
' They might know the gods ! ' cried O'Malley,
using the phrase that symbolized for him the entire
332 THE CENTAUR xliv
Stahl looked at him for some time before he spoke.
Again that expression of wistful, almost longing
admiration shone in the brown eyes.
* My friend,' he answered gravely, * men do not
want to know the gods. They prefer their delights
less subtle. They crave the cruder physical sensations
that bang them towards excitement '
' Of disease, of pain, of separateness,' put in the
The German shrugged his shoulders. ' It's the
stage they're at,' he said. ' You, if you have success,
will merely make a few uncomfortable. The majority
will hardly turn their heads. To one in a million
you may bring peace and happiness.'
' It's worth it,' cried the Irishman, ' even for that
one ! '
Stahl answered very gently, smiling with his new
expression of tenderness and sympathy. * Dream
your great dream if you will, but dream it, my
friend, alone — in peace and silence. That " one " I
speak of is yourself.'
The doctor pressed his hand and turned towards
his cabin. O'Malley stood a little longer to share
the sunrise. Neither spoke another word. He
heard the door shut softly behind him. The
unspoken answer in his mind was in two words
— two common little adjectives : ' Coward and
selfish ! '
But Stahl, once in the privacy of his cabin,
judging by the glance visible on his face ere he closed
the door, may probably have known a very different
thought. And possibly he uttered it below his
breath. A sigh most certainly escaped his lips, a sigh
half sadness, half relief. For O'Malley remembered
xLiv THE CENTAUR 333
* Beautiful, foolish dreamer among men ! But,
thank God, harmless — to others and — himself.'
And soon afterwards O'Malley also went to his
cabin. Before sleep took him he lay deep in a mood
of sadness — almost as though he had heard his friend's
unspoken thought. He realized the insuperable
difficulties that lay before him. The world would
think him * mad but harmless.'
Then, with full sleep, he slipped across that
sunrise and found the old-world Garden. He held
the eternal password.
' I can but try . . . ! '
And here the crowded, muddled note-books come
to an end. The rest was action — and inevitable
The brief history of O'Malley's mad cam-
paign may be imagined. To a writer who found
interest in the study of forlorn hopes and their
leaders, a detailed record of this particular one
might seem worth while. For me personally it is
too sad and too pathetic. I cannot bring myself to
tell, much less to analyse the story of a broken heart,
when that heart and story are those of a close and
deeply admired intimate, a man who gave me
genuine love and held my own.
Besides, although a curious chapter in uncommon
human nature, it is not by any means a new one.
It is the true story of many a poet and dreamer
since the world began, though perhaps not often
told nor even guessed. And only the poets them-
selves, especially the little poets who cannot utter
half the fire that consumes them, may know the
searing pain and passion and the true inwardness of
Most of those months it chanced I was away, and
only fi-agments of the foolish enterprise could reach
me. But nothing, I think, could have stopped him,
nor any worldly selfish wisdom made him even
xLv THE CENTAUR 23S
pause. The thing possessed him utterly ; it had to
flame its way out as best it could. To high and
low, he preached by every means in his power the
Simple Life ; he preached the mystical life as well —
that the true knowledge and the true progress are
within, that they both pertain to the inner being and
have no chief concern with external things. He
preached it wildly, lopsidedly, in or out of season,
knowing no half measures. His enthusiasm obscured
his sense of proportion and the extravagance hid the
germ of truth that undeniably lay in his message.
To put the movement on its feet at first he
realized every possession that he had. It left him
penniless, if he was not almost so already, and in the
end it left him smothered beneath the glory of his
blinding and unutterable Dream. He never under-
stood that suggestion is more effective than a
sledge-hammer. His faith was no mere little seed of
mustard, but a full-fledged forest singing its message
in a wind of thunder. He shouted it aloud to the
I think the acid disappointment that lies beneath
that trite old phrase ' a broken heart ' was never
really his ; for indeed it seemed that his cruel,
ludicrous failure merely served to strengthen hope
and purpose by making him seek for a better
method of imparting what he had to say. In the
end he learned the bitter lesson to the full. But
faith never trailed a single feather. Those jeering
audiences in the Park ; those empty benches in many
a public hall, those brief, ignoring paragraphs in the
few newspapers that filled a vacant corner by label-
ling him crank and long-haired prophet ; even the
silence that greeted his pamphlets, his letters to the
Press, and all the rest, hurt him for others rather
236 THE CENTAUR xlv
than for himself. His pain was altruistic, never
personal. His dream and motive, his huge, un-
wieldy compassion, his genuine love for humanity,
all were big enough for that.
And so, I think, he missed the personal mortifica-
tion that disappointment so deep might bring to
dreamers with an aim less unadulteratedly pure.
His eye was single to the end. He attributed only
the highest motives to all who offered help. The
very quacks and fools who flocked to his banner,
eager to exploit their smaller fads by joining them to
his own, he welcomed, only regretting that, as Stahl
had warned him, he could not attract a better class
of mind. He did not even see through the
manoeuvres of the occasional women of wealth and
title who sought to conceal their own mediocrity by
advertising in their drawing-rooms the eccentricities
of men like himself. And to the end he had the
courage of his glorious convictions.
The change of method that he learned at last,
moreover, was characteristic of this faith and courage.
' I've begun at the wrong end,' he said ; ' I shall
never reach men through their intellects. Their
brains to-day are occupied by the machine-made
gods of civilization. I cannot change the direction
of their thoughts and lusts from outside ; the
momentum is too great to stop that way. I must
get at them from within. To reach their hearts, the
new ideas must rise up from within. I see the truer
way. I must do it from the other side. It must
come to them — in Beauty.'
For he was to the last convinced that death
would merge him in the being of the Earth's
Collective Consciousness, and that, lost in her deep
eternal beauty, he thus might reach the hearts of
xLv THE CENTAUR 337
men in some stray glimpse of nature's loveliness, and
register his flaming message. He loved to quote
from Adonais :
He is made one with Nature : there is heard
His voice in all her music, from the moan
Of thunder, to the song of night's sweet bird ;
He is a presence to be felt and known
In darkness and in light, from herb and stone,
Spreading itself where'er that Power may move
Which has withdrawn his being to its own.
He is a portion of the loveliness
Which once he made more lovely : he doth bear
His part, while the one Spirit's plastic stress
Sweeps through the dull dense world . . .
And this thought, phrased in a dozen different
ways, was always on his lips. To dream was right
and useful, even to dream alone, because the beauty
of the dream must add to the beauty of the Whole
of which it is a part and an interpretation. It was
not really lost or vain. All must come back in time
to feed the world. He had known gracious thoughts
of Earth too big to utter, almost too big to hold.
Such thoughts could not ever be really told ; they
were incommunicable. For the mystical revelation
is incommunicable. It has authority only for him
who feels it. A corporate revelation is impossible.
Only those among men could know, in whose hearts
it rose intuitively and made its presence felt as innate
ideas. Inspiration brings it, and beauty is the vehicle.
Their hearts must change before their minds could
* I can work it better from the other side — from
that old, old Garden which is the Mother's heart.
In this way I can help at any rate . . . ! '
It was at the dose of a wet and foggy autumn that
we met again, winter in the air, all London desolate ;
and his wasted, forlorn appearance told me the truth
at once. Only the passionate eagerness of voice and
manner were there to prove that the spirit had not
weakened. There glowed within a fire that showed
itself in the translucent shining of the eyes and face.
' I've made one great discovery, old man,' he
exclaimed with old, familiar, high enthusiasm, ' one
great discovery at least.'
' You've made so many,' I answered cheerfully,
while my real thoughts were busy with his bodily
state of health. For his appearance shocked me.
He stood among a litter of papers, books, neckties,
nailed boots, knapsacks, maps and what-not, that
rolled upon the floor from the mouth of the
Willesden canvas sack. His old grey flannel suit
hung literally upon a bag of bones, all the life there
was seemed concentrated in his face and eyes — those
far-seeing, light blue eyes. They were darker than
usual now, eyes like the sea, I thought. His hair,
long and disordered, tumbled over his forehead.
He was pale, and at the same time flushed. It was
almost a disembodied spirit that I saw.
• You've made so many. I love to hear them.
Is this one finer than the others ? '
xLvi THE CENTAUR 339
He looked a moment at me through and through,
almost uncannily. He looked in reality beyond me.
It was something else he saw, and in the dusk I
' Simpler,' he said quickly, ' much simpler.'
He moved up close beside me, whispering. Was
it all imagination that a breath of flowers came with
him .'' There was certainly a curious fragrance in
the air, wild and sweet like orchards in the spring.
* And it is—.? '
' That the Garden's everywhere ! You needn't go
to the distant Caucasus to find it. It's all about this
old London town, and in these foggy streets and
dingy pavements. It's even in this cramped,
undusted room. Now at this moment, while that
lamp flickers and the thousands go to sleep. The
gates of horn and ivory are here,' he tapped his
breast. ' And here the flowers, the long, clean open
hills, the giant herd, the nymphs, the sunshine and
the gods ! '
So attached was he now to that little room in
Paddington where his books and papers lay, that
when the curious illness that had caught him grew
so much worse, and the attacks of the nameless fever
that afflicted him turned serious, I hired a bedroom
for him in the same house. And it was in that
poky, cage-like den he breathed his last.
His illness I called curious, his fever nameless,
because they really were so and puzzled every one.
He simply faded out of life, it seemed ; there was no
pain, no sleeplessness, no suff^ering of any physical
kind. He uttered no complaint, nor were there
symptoms of any known disorder.
' Your friend is sound organically,' the doctor
told me when I pressed him for the truth there on the
340 THE CENTAUR xlvi
stairs, ' sound as a bell. He wants the open air and
plenty of wholesome food, that's all. His body is
ill-nourished. His trouble is mental — some deep
and heavy disappointment doubtless. If you can
change the current of his thoughts, awaken interest
in common things, and give him change of scene,
perhaps ' He shrugged his shoulders and looked
' You think he's dying .? '
' I think, yes, he is dying.'
' From lack of living pure and simple,' was the
answer. ' He has lost all hold on life.'
' He has abundant vitality still.'
' Full of it. But it all goes — elsewhere. The
physical organism gets none of it.'
' Yet mentally,' I asked, ' there's nothing actually
wrong ? '
* Not in the ordinary sense. The mind is clear
and active. So far as I can test it, the process of
thought is healthy and undamaged. It seems to
me — '
He hesitated a moment on the doorstep while the
driver wound the motor handle. I waited with a
sinking heart for the rest of the sentence.
*. . . like certain cases of nostalgia I have known
— very rare and very difficult to deal with. Acute
and vehement nostalgia, yes, sometimes called a
broken heart,' he added, pausing another instant at
the carriage door, * in which the entire stream of a
man's inner life flows to some distant place, or person,
or — or to some imagined yearning that he craves to
* To a dream ? '
' It jnight be even that,' he answered slowly.
xLvi THE CENTAUR 341
stepping in. ' It might be spiritual. The religious
and poetic temperament are most open to it, and
the most difficult to deal with when afflicted.' He
emphasized the little word as though the doubt he
felt was far less strong than the conviction he only
half concealed. * If you would save him, try to
change the direction of his thoughts. There is
nothing — in all honesty I must say it — nothing that
/ can do to help.'
And then, pulling at the grey tuft on his chin
and looking keenly at me a moment over his glasses,
— ' Those flowers,' he said hesitatingly, ' you might
move those flowers from the room, perhaps. Their
perfume is a trifle strong. ... It might be better.'
Again he looked sharply at me. There was an odd
expression in his eyes. And in my heart there was
an odd sensation too, so odd that I found myself
bereft a moment of any speech at all, and when my
tongue became untied, the carriage was already dis-
appearing down the street. For in that dingy
sick-room there were no flowers at all, yet the perfume
of woods and fields and open spaces had reached the
doctor too, and obviously perplexed him.
' Change the direction of his thoughts ' ! I went
indoors, wondering how any honest and even half-
unselfish friend, knowing what I knew, could follow
such advice. With what but the lowest motive, of
keeping him alive for my own happiness, could I
seek to change his thoughts of some imagined joy
and peace to the pain and sordid facts of an earthly
existence that he loathed ?
But when I turned I saw the tousled yellow-
headed landlady standing in the breach. Mrs.
Heath stopped me in the hall to inquire whether
I could say ' anythink abart the rent per'aps } '
342 THE CENTAUR xlvi
Her manner was defiant. I found three months
' It's no good arsking 'im,' she said, though not
unkindly on the whole. ' I'm sick an' tired of always
being put off. He talks about the gawds and a Mr.
Pan, or some such gentleman who he says will look
after it all. But I never sees 'im — not this Mr. Pan.
And his stuff up there,' jerking her head towards the
little room, * ain't worth a Sankeymoody 'ymn-book,
take the lot of it at cost ! '
I reassured her. It was impossible to help
smiling. For some minds, I reflected, a Sankey
hymn-book might hold dreams that were every bit as
potent as his own, and far less troublesome. But
that ' Mr. Pan, or some such gentleman ' should
serve as a ' reference ' between lodger and landlady
was an unwitting comment on the modern point of
view that made me want to cry rather than to laugh.
O'Malley and Mrs. Heath between them had made
a profounder criticism than they knew.
And so by slow degrees he went, leaving the outer
fury for the inner peace. The centre of conscious-
ness gradually shifted from the transient form which
is the true ghost, to the deeper, permanent state which
is the eternal reality. For this was how he phrased
it to me in one of our last, strange talks. He
watched his own withdrawal.
In bed he would lie for hours with fixed and happy
eyes, staring apparently at nothing, the expression on
his face quite radiant. The pulse sank often danger-
ously low ; he scarcely seemed to breathe ; yet it was
never complete unconsciousness or trance. My
voice, when I found the heart to try and coax his
own for speech, would win him back. The eyes
xLvi THE CENTAUR 343
would then grow dimmer, losing their happier light,
as he turned to the outer world to look at me.
' The pull is so tremendous now,' he whispered ;
' I was far, so far away, in the deep life of Earth.
Why do you bring me back to all these little pains ?
I can do nothing here ; there I am of use. . . . '
He spoke so low I had to bend my head to catch
the words. It was very late at night and for hours I
had been watching by his side. Outside an ugly
yellow fog oppressed the town, but about him like an
atmosphere I caught again that fragrance as of trees
and flowers. It was too faint for any name — that
fugitive, mild perfume one meets upon bare hills and
round the skirts of forests. It was somehow, I
fancied, in the very breath.
' Each time the effort to return is greater. In
there I am complete and full of power. I can work
and send my message back so splendidly. Here,'
he glanced down at his wasted body with a curious
smile, ' I am only on the fringe — it's pain and
failure. All so inefi^ective.'
That other look came back into the eyes, more
swiftly than before.
' I thought you might like to speak, to tell me —
something,' I said, keeping the tears with difficulty
from my voice. ' Is there no one you would like to
see } '
He shook his head slowly, and gave the peculiar
' They're all in there.'
* But Stahl, perhaps — if I could get him here .? '
An expression of gentle disapproval crossed his
face, then melted softly into a wistful tenderness
as of a child.
' He's not there — yet,' he whispered, ' but he will
344 THE CENTAUR xlvi
come too in the end. In sleep, I think, he goes
there even now.'
' Where are you really then ? ' I ventured.
* And where is it you go to ? '
The answer came unhesitatingly ; there was no
doubt or searching.
* Into myself, my real and deeper self, and so
beyond it into her — the Earth. Where all the
others are — all, all, all.'
And then he frightened me by sitting up in bed
abruptly. His eyes stared past me — out beyond the
close confining walls. The movement was so
startling with its suddenness and vigour that I
shrank back a moment. The head was sideways.
He was intently listening.
' Hark ! ' he whispered. ' They are calling me !
Do you hear . . .V
The look of joy that broke over the face like
sunshine made me hold my breath. Something in
his low voice thrilled me beyond all I have ever
known. I listened too. Only the rumble of the
traffic down the distant main street broke the
silence, the rattle of a nearer cart, and the footsteps
of a few pedestrians. No other noises came across
the night. There was no wind. Thick yellow fog
* I hear nothing,' I answered softly. ' What is it
that you hear } '
And, making no reply, he presently lay down
again among the pillows, that look of joy and glory
still upon his face. It lay there to the end like
The fog came in so thickly through the window
that I rose to close it. He never closed that
window, and I hoped he would not notice. For a
xLvi THE CENTAUR 345
sound of wretched street-music was coming nearer —
some beggar playing dismally upon a penny whistle
— and I feared it would disturb him. But in a flash
he was up again.
* No, no ! ' he cried, raising his voice for the first
ime that night. * Do not shut it. I shan't be able
to hear then. Let all the air come in. Open it
wider . . . wider ! I love that sound ! '
* The fog '
' There is no fog. It's only sun and flowers and
music. Let them in. Don't you hear it now } ' he
added. And, more to bring him peace than
anything else, I bowed my head to signify agreement.
For the last confusion of the mind, I saw, was upon
him, and he made the outer world confirm some
imagined detail of his inner dream. I drew the sash
down lower, covering his body closely with the
blankets. He flung them off^ impatiently at once.
The damp and freezing night rushed in upon us like
a presence. It made me shudder, but O'Malley only
raised himself upon one elbow to taste it better, and
— to listen.
Then, waiting patiently for the return of the
quiet, trance-like state when I might cover him
again, I moved towards the window and looked out.
The street was empty, save for that beggar playing
vilely on his penny whistle. The wretch came to
a standstill immediately before the house. The
lamplight fell from the room upon his tattered,
broken figure. I could not see his face. He
groped and felt his way.
Outside that homeless wanderer played his penny
pipe in the night of cold and darkness.
Inside the Dreamer listened, dreaming of his gods
and garden, his great Earth Mother, his visioned
346 THE CENTAUR xlvi
life of peace and simple things with a living
Nature. . . .
And I felt somehow that player watched us. I
made an angry sign to him to go. But it was the
sudden touch upon my arm that made me turn
round with such, a sudden start that I almost cried
aloud. O'Malley in his night-clothes stood close
against me on the floor, slight as a spirit, eyes ashine,
lips moving faintly into speech through the most
wonderful smile a human face has ever shown me.
' Do not send him away,' he whispered, joy
breaking from him like a light, ' but tell him that
I love it. Go out and thank him. Tell him I hear
and understand, and say that I am coming. Will
you . . .? '
Something within me whirled. It seemed that
I was lifted from my feet a moment. Some tide of
power rushed from his person to my own. The
room was filled with blinding light. But in my
heart there rose a great emotion that combined tears
and joy and laughter all at once.
* The moment you are back in bed,' I heard my
voice like one speaking from a distance, * I'll go '
The momentary, wild confusion passed as suddenly
as it came. I remember he obeyed at once. As
I bent down to tuck the clothes about him, that
fragrance as of flowers and open spaces rose about
my bending face like incense — bewilderingly sweet.
And the next second I was standing in the street.
The man who played upon the pipe, I saw, was
blind. His hand and fingers were curiously large.
I was already close, ready to press all that my
pockets held into his hand — ay, and far more than
merely pockets held because O'Malley said he loved
the music — when something made me turn my head
xLvi THE CENTAUR 347
away. I cannot say precisely what it was, for first it
seemed a tapping at the window of his room behind
me, and then a little noise within the room itself,
and next — more curious than either, — a feeling that
something came out rushing past me through the
air. It whirled and shouted as it went. . . .
I only remember clearly that in the very act of
turning, and while my look still held that beggar's
face within the field of vision, I saw the sightless
eyes turn bright a moment as though he opened
them and saw. He did most certainly smile ; to
that I swear.
But when I turned again the street immediately
about me was empty. The beggar-man was gone.
And down the pavement, moving swiftly through
the curtain of fog, I saw his vanishing figure. It
was large and spreading. In the fringe of light the
lamp-post gave, its upper edges seemed far above
the ground. Someone else was with him. There
were two figures.
I heard that sound of piping far away. It
sounded faint and almost flute-like in the air. And
in the mudjLt.my feet the money lay — spurned utterly.
I heard the last coins ring upon the pavement as
they settled. But in the room, when I got back,
the body of Terence O'Malley had ceased to
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